What is the essence of the book?
I am a reasonably keen gardener. I have never been flummoxed by growing cucumbers or pumpkins but melons are an entirely different proposition. I have tried (and failed) on several occasions to grow melons from scratch and even bought fledgeling plants but to no avail. What I really needed was some advice and now I have it from horticulturist Richard Brown.
A large proportion of the book covers the actual growing of cucurbits (the collective name for this type of ‘fruit’) from propagation, planting out, tips on growing, harvesting and saving seeds. Brown also recommends particular cultivars to grow. The last section of the book covers cucurbits in the kitchen with recipes ranging from Shark Fin Melon Soup (fear not – it doesn’t contain any shark!), spiced pumpkin scones and marrow rum (which will be a godsend when my courgettes get too large and unruly).
About the author
Richard Brown teaches at Wakefield College, helping young and old, able bodied and disabled, become great gardeners. He was awarded the Winston Churchill Fellowship in 2013 for a comparative study on the use of horticulture as therapy between the UK, Canada and the USA.
Who will like it?
This is definitely one for the green fingered among you particularly if you want to try growing something different (and successfully!).
Who won’t like it?
If you prefer buying your fruit fully ripened and have little interest in growing your own then you are less likely to appreciate the book (although it does contain some intriguing recipes and you obviously could make them with shop bought melons etc).
What do I like about the book?
The first section of the book covers the history of melons, pumpkins, watermelons and cucumbers. Descriptions of the riot that ensued in Panama City after an American traveller refused to pay for a slice of watermelon he had procured from a local vendor (dubbed the watermelon war) or the Victorian’s obsession to grow a straight cucumber are particularly fascinating to me (not surprisingly given that I am a historian).
Would I cook from it?
There are some interesting recipes in here – I love the idea of the pickled melon rind or the watermelon mint julep (pictured at the top of this post).