by Sybil PrattFebruary 2000
The green sceneAlong with some four-star professionals, gardeners who cook and cooks who garden (from every state, Puerto Rico, and a few foreign countries) share their recipes (400 in all), tips, and stories in Smith and Hawken's The Gardeners' Community Cookbook, compiled and written by Victoria Wise. The initial request for garden cooking recipes was sown in the Smith ∧ Hawken catalog, dear to every gardener's heart; the result was a healthy, hearty, heartwarming harvest, a collection that multiplied like zucchini in August. And though gardeners have traditionally exchanged pass-along recipes over the fence, these poured in through the mail, over the phone, the fax, and the Internet yet that close feeling of community is as strong as it would be if you knew everyone who contributed by sight. There's an abundantly friendly feel to this book; it's as though Ms. Wise were chatting with you as she cooked and couldn't resist adding a crop of culinary asides (scenting a sauce with roses, roasting garlic, making polenta in the microwave), flourishes of notable quotables in the margins, gardening hints galore (preserving nasturtium seeds, growing basil in winter, the low-down on leeks), and delightful disquisitions on Tools of the Trade and Tricks of the Trade. The cookbooks that Workman publishes, such as the ever-popular Silver Palate duo, have set the standard for informal, easy design, and the laid-back layout here follows suit, inviting you to wander comfortably from recipes to green-shaded boxes filled with fabulous information. The recipes range from savory starters, salads, soups, sauces, salsas, a peck of pastas, marvelous main dishes, and vegetable sides that put the garden right on your plate to pantry perks for putting by the harvest, a bountiful basket of bakery goods, and dulcet concoctions to satisfy any gardener's sweet tooth.
Victoria Wise's generous cookbook and the generous community of gardener-cooks who participated in its creation give back to another community; a two-percent royalty from the sale of the book will go to Second Harvest, the largest charitable hunger relief organization in the country. It's a great way to get and give at the same time.
Sybil Pratt is an avid cook.