Thanks to the local food movement, most of us are within increasingly easy reach of foods grown or produced nearby. Yet even with community-supported agriculture programs, home gardens, farmers’ markets and enlightened grocery stores, some items remain out of reach, simply because of temperate zone limitations. You just can’t grow bananas in Nashville, for example—or can you? Growing Tasty Tropical Plants in Any Home, Anywhere, by Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin, claims that anyone can grow not only bananas, but limes, avocados, olives, figs, kiwis and 41 other tropical and exotic plants. The trick is to grow them inside. The authors present each fruit in a clear, colorful spread with photos, background info, growing conditions, care, potential challenges and sometimes recipes. This surprisingly simple concept makes more than ecological and economic sense; it also makes granitas, tapenades, sorbets, jams, vinegars and eaten-out-of-hand treats. And I’m saving the best for (nearly) last: It makes chocolate (not to mention tea, coffee, cinnamon, black pepper, vanilla and sugar, too).

Ever look at the list of ingredients in hand lotion, lipstick or a bottle of baby shampoo? Most of the stuff we use to make ourselves clean and reasonably attractive can actually make us ill. Green Beauty Recipes offers an antidote to the ugly truth about beauty products: Make your own. Julie Gabriel, founder of Petite Marie Organics and author of The Green Beauty Guide, gives readers “a blueprint on how to make the green leap and formulate your own cleansers, toners, moisturizers and body products from scratch,” with the promise that all are “gorgeous, green and amazingly beneficial for your health and for our planet.” Most ingredients are basic pantry items, and others (like essential oils and beeswax) are easily found at health food stores. My favorites are instant recipes like one-step toners (which include orange juice and tea) and cleansers (yogurt exfoliates and moisturizes; oatmeal cleans and buffs), but more committed readers and even trade professionals will appreciate the plentiful technical details on how to select ingredients, “melt, blend, pour, store and preserve.”

The beautiful thing about Green Interior Design, written by award-winning and famously green designer Lori Dennis, is that the book can answer the needs of a huge range of readers, even folks who, were it not for the modifier “green,” might never pick up a book about interior design. From readers simply hunting carcinogen-free candles to those aiming at LEED-standard new home construction, everyone will find plenty of help. Dennis thoroughly investigates green options large and small in furniture, accessories, fabrics, window treatments, surfacing, plants, appliances and plumbing fixtures, and then focuses on the two rooms where we spend most of our time: the bedroom and living room. Of special note is the chapter on cleaning and maintenance: No matter how green or not our homes may be, we can at least tidy without inflicting harm. Encyclopedic-scale resources, vendor lists, websites, checklists and a glossary boost this guide to reference status, while a section on the author’s favorite architects, designers and builders provides high-end inspiration.

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