The release of Maple Sugar: From Sap to Syrup: The History, Lore, and How-to Behind this Sweet Treat coincides this month with a maple tree’s release of sap: the “sole ingredient of one of the world’s most appealing natural delicacies.” Author Tim Herd, a naturalist and award-winning environmental educator, explains how maple sap starts its inexorable rise between February and April, signaling the start of sugaring season. So begins a delicious look at the history, mystery, science and “application” (i.e., the eating) of sap. He includes an “illustrated family tree” of maples, concentrating on how to identify the 13 native varieties most tapped by hobbyists, plus a friendly DIY chapter on how to make syrup from trees at home and a chapter of maple-y recipes both sweet and savory. Photographs, illustrations, vintage ads and a nifty woodcut-themed layout help make Maple Sugar a Grade A treat.

SOME ENCHANTED EVENINGS
In The Twilight Garden: Creating a Garden that Entrances by Day and Comes Alive at Night, Lia Leendertz, gardening columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian, argues that “the best time to enjoy a garden may come after sunset.” Most of us are too busy during daylight hours to tend our borders and beds, much less to sit and enjoy them. But the appeal of a nocturnal garden grows beyond considerations of leisure; night scents and night blooms are unique and magical in their own right. The Twilight Garden is a comprehensive guide to making this magic possible on any scale, whether it be a climbing, scented white rose at the front door, containers on the balcony, a family garden, a contemplative nook or a stellar “outdoor room” for entertaining. The book advises on color, scent, lighting and water features, and makes a particular effort to help clarify the reader’s style and space. Part two spotlights plants and planting, dividing materials into three formal categories: “star plants” (like jasmine and moonflower), “supporting cast” (like clematis montana) and “backstage beauties” (including smokebush and redbud trees).

TOP PICK FOR LIFESTYLES
Urban farming has been around since cities began. Only lately, however, with the convergence of locavore (local eating) movements, a crummy economy, increased awareness of food safety and other environmental concerns has the idea started to flourish at the grassroots level. Your Farm in the City: An Urban-Dweller’s Guide to Growing Food and Raising Animals, by Lisa Taylor and the gardeners of Seattle Tilth, makes a convincing case for any effort to grow our own food, whether we dream of a few cherry tomatoes on the stairwell or goats in the backyard. To grow plants, lack of experience or square footage need not be an obstacle: The only real requirement is a bit of sun, even if it is through a window or in a vacant lot. Container, raised bed and vertical gardening methods are covered (with an emphasis on sustainable methods), as are city-friendly varieties of fruit, vegetables and herbs, soil care, composting, watering systems and pest control. If raising chickens, bees or even livestock is a goal, look here for suggested breeds, basic care and special considerations. Your Farm in the City backs up its ambitious title with all we need to succeed. 

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