Book Review: Incredible Edibles

Author: Sonia Day
Publisher: Firefly Books
Book Publication: 2010

With most of us now living in crowded urban areas, whether we are happy about it or not, the situation is our reality. As the seasons change and the ground warms up, the lack of generous yard space can be hard to accept, even for those long-time city dwellers. We find ourselves longing for the open areas that offered our grandparents the generous plots of land to do with as they saw fit.

Collectively, we are experiencing a cultural shift towards returning to our roots. One of the biggest noticeable changes is a desire to bring ourselves closer to the land. And planting fosters a connection between yourself and your land like none other. We may not have the plots of yesteryear, where our grandfathers (or grandmothers) would work their land, turn their soil with room to stretch, and construct near-perfect little rows of near-perfect little seedlings to flourish into months worth of fresh produce and produce-inspired foods, such as fresh zucchini bread. Yum. While it may seem futile to think about planting in the city, Sonia Day, in her Incredible Edibles: 43 Fun Things to Grow in the City, shows us otherwise.

So what if we don’t have the fresh earth and large space we crave? No biggie. It’s time to get creative and Day shows us how. Her years of home gardening – a process of trial and error – have guided her to the top 43 veggies and herbs suitable for easy growth in your backyard, balcony or even rooftop garden. Day forces a cognitive shift in the way we approach gardening. Urbanites are no longer to fret when they think about the dizzying delicious experience of biting into a freshly picked cherry tomato. With her help, city residents can easily become lucky gardeners who munch on their delicious hard work.

With this book, Day introduces us to what gardening means in 2010. She explains that gardening has been undergoing a quiet revolution over the past few years, and that vegetable gardening in particular has been “undergoing enormous changes to meet the demands of the way we live now…Today’s urban gardeners, limited to smaller spaces than previous generations yet much more environmentally conscious, are discovering new, imaginative approaches to growing food.” Seeds are tailored towards container growing. Smaller species of cucumbers make it possible to cultivate crops without acres of space, and little eggplants that grow no larger than a human thumb can hang beautifully contained on shrubs.

For those with no former experience, gardening might seem like a daunting chore. But not so. Day eliminates the intimidation of gardening, positioning it in a light that is welcoming and encouraging to all, even the most novice gardener.

So many people have opened their hearts and minds to home gardening, it is indeed becoming a true revolution. She writes, “This phenomenon has become so hot that the sales of vegetable seeds are soaring. They’ve outstripped those of flowers for the first time since the back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s.”

In this book we learn of “The Ten Commandments of Growing Food in the City.” Day provides neat little tips to accommodate the urban gardener. For example, if you don’t have enough light hitting a specific area of your garden, put your containers on wheels and move them around the yard to catch the sun throughout the day.

In regards to the 43 recommended crops to grow – who would have thought that growing melons and zucchini would be recommended for the city? But with dwarf versions that don’t spiral out of control, those of us in the city can now enjoy fresh, juicy melons on summer mornings without having to make a purchase from the store.

By far the most useful application of this book is the sidebar accompanying each plant’s description. In it, Day provides readers with the degree of difficulty of each plant, amount of sun needed, and whether the plant grows better in-ground or in containers (who would have thought a veggie could do better in a container!).

She also includes tips on how to plant – as in, whether to seed directly into soil or to start indoors within a recommended time frame before the last frost, plus methods of planting for each species, special requirements, problems (mostly in terms of unwanted critters), how to harvest, store, and how much to grow.

And along with each plant variety, Day also provides a recipe tried and tested by hers truly.

In Incredible Edibles, Day has made the prospect of urban gardening simple and encouraging. Even those who have been at it for years will find hidden gems sprinkled throughout. Flipping through these pages brings the sweet air of summer and home-cultivated produce right into your kitchen. If this book doesn’t get you geared up for the season, gardening is not for you!


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