Ever since the appearance of Robert Hart’s books and Plants For A Future, forest gardens have been an often bewildering source for botanical and culinary experimentation. At last, Martin Crawford and Caroline Aitken have provided us with some tasty tracks through the tangle of flavours in the understorey and groundcover.
The main section introduces plants and recipes seasonally, calling to mind Roger Phillips’ classic Wild Food (which to date has been the nearest thing to a book on forest garden foods). This layout works very well, making it easily accessible for the novice forest garden chef. The selection of plants shows what a fertile edge the forest garden is culturally. There are plants like stitchwort and nettles that you might associate with foraging, while others, such as hostas and ice plant (Sedum spectabilis) are traditionally at home in the ornamental border. In the forest garden, and on the plate of the forest garden chef, all these mingle happily and to often surprising effect.
Judging by the few spring recipes I had the opportunity to try out, there are many new delicacies waiting to be discovered in this book. Having long been a fan of ice plant as a refreshing snack with a lemony cucumber flavour, I loved the recipes given for it and its close relative orpine. Individual plants are introduced with helpful advice on harvesting and preparation. (I’ll give cardoon another try, now that I have read the instructions and the Italian Carduni Fritti recipe!)
Befitting the forest garden theme, the book is predominantly vegetarian but not exclusively so – and so some of us may be looking forward to squirrel, mushroom and hazelnut pie this autumn.
An extensive introduction presents a useful range of harvesting, processing and preservation methods. Basic instructions for each method are complemented with one or two sample recipes, encouraging experimentation at home. The photographs of plants and dishes make the book a visual feast as well. This may not be a coffee table book of forest gardens, but it is most definitely a kitchen table one.
Enjoying our posts? Want to keep in touch with our most popular pages on this website? Sign up for our FREE monthly eNewsletter. You can also download an issue of Permaculture magazine totally free of charge HERE.