If you have ever dreamed of picking fresh salad leaves for the evening meal, gathering vine-ripened tomatoes or pulling up your own sweet carrots, this is the book for you. Follow in the footsteps of one of Australia's best-loved cooks and food writers as she shares her experiences and the secrets of rewarding kitchen gardening. Be encouraged by detailed gardening notes that explain how you can plant, grow and harvest 73 different vegetables, herbs and fruit. Whether you have a large plot in a suburban backyard or a few pots on a balcony, you will find everything you need to get your kitchen garden started in this fully updated paperback edition (Vol. 1) of Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion.
Kitchen Garden Companion: Growing
Author: Stephanie Alexander
Question: Why did you decide to write Kitchen Garden Companion: Growing?
Stephanie Alexander: Kitchen Garden Companion: Growing was originally a part of a much bigger book called The Kitchen Garden Companion and I made the decision when it was going to paperback that it would be best if it was two paperbacks; one on the growing part of gardening and the second on cooking your crops.
The Kitchen Garden Companion: Growing book is beautiful as it's been resized and looked at to ensure it stands alone. I have included diary notes and personal observations to ensure the book is friendly.
The Kitchen Garden Companion: Growing is an alphabetical guide to 100 Vegetables and Herbs that we all use, all the time. I have included cultivation notes including straight forward information about when to plant, how to deeply to plant and how many to plant. And, then it talks chattily how to grow and harvest the particular plant or how to grow in a container as well as various ideas on how to use the crop – not recipes but explaining this goes with that.
I have also included a note especially for children in every entry, as I always want to include children in the way I chat about plants so families can see gardening and cooking is a family activity. The Kitchen Garden Companion: Growing is intended for the family as it wasn't written entirely for children but it certainly suggests ways for children to become involved and engaged in the activity including how to make your own worm farm (which is something children love to get involved in).
Question: What would we currently find growing in your garden?
Stephanie Alexander: I have downsized to an apartment which has meant my large vegetable garden has also downsized to quiet a small vegetable garden. I still have all my herbs growing; I have some herbs growing in a wall garden like Thyme, Mint and Oregano. I have the tough herbs like Rosemary and Sage growing in the ground, amongst decorative plants. I have a metre by a metre vegetable bed in which I grow salad leaves, rhubarb, silverbeet and a little bit of room for a seasonable plant – it was just beans and snow peas and currently I am about to plant broad beans for the Spring.
That's enough of a vegetable garden to keep me enthusiastic and I enjoy picking my own salad leaves, at their most delicious. I am still in touch with the growing world and it's lovely to have all my herbs.
Question: What is your all-time favourite dish to make? (Yes, I know that's a hard question!)
Stephanie Alexander: That is an often asked question and it is a nearly impossible question to answer. I absolutely have to have a Green Salad every day and I do always try to have a mix of leaves and I always use Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil as we are producing some of the most beautiful oil in the world.
Question: Where do you find your inspiration when creating recipes?
Stephanie Alexander: Everywhere, really. The whole world of food is inspiring to me; wherever I have a little bit of space I plant something. I certainly plant things that are beautiful but I also like to keep a little spot for something with a culinary purpose, as well. I have a Lemon Scented Verbena because it is a beautiful plant but it can also be popped into a tea pot with boiling water and make a lovely herbal tea.
I love visiting Farmers Markets – I don't do it nearly as often as I would like – because you really see the whole world of what is currently available, that week and that is very inspiring.
Question: Where is your favourite travel destination and why?
Stephanie Alexander: It's a tossup; it's probably France but Italy is definitely in there too. France gets the edge as I'm much more converse of the language and I always feel as if I get more out of the markets. I walk around and listen, eavesdrop really, at the markets or the shops – listening to the way the ordinary person does their shopping and being encouraged by the interest they show in the quality of their ingredients.
Interview by Brooke Hunter