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Garden Lifestyle

Summer Reading

When we gardeners are worn out from digging, planting, weeding, harvesting, etc.

  • The Drunken Botanist will tell you everything you need to know about the plants from around the world that have been used to make alcohol throughout history. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Letters between Two Gardeners includes the correspondence between Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence, which spans nearly 20 years.

When we gardeners are worn out from digging, planting, weeding, harvesting, etc. or it is too dang hot to be out there in the afternoon sun, it is nice to relax with a cold iced tea or lemonade and read a book. There is nothing like a good book awaiting us at the end of the day. I enjoy reading all year long, however, it is a great summer pastime for many–reading at the beach, in the shade on a porch, or in the hammock–I always take a few books on vacation.

Although I read fiction every now and then, I mostly read non-fiction, primarily books pertaining to food and drink, cooking, gardening, especially herbs, some travel, history and botany. The following are two books that I would recommend.

The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013.

I pre-ordered this book, because I have two other books by this author, which I have thoroughly enjoyed and used: Wicked Plants and Wicked Bugs. This book, which is subtitled The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks, does not disappoint. Amy Stewart has done her research–this book is about 400 pages–chockablock full of history, science, lore, commerce, and recipes. Ms. Stewart’s writing style is straightforward, with a good sense of humor and makes for pleasurable reading. She guides us through the plants that have been used throughout history to create libations, and gives details on where they are from, how they are used, how they are grown, harvested and processed and makes it interesting and fun.

The plants used to make alcohol include grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, flowers, trees and vines, funghi, tubers, roots, bark and berries. She gives recipes and details on all kinds of spirits, liqueurs, beer, wines, and more and gives recommendations on what and how to buy them. This book is for any foodie, be it one who likes to eat, garden, research, or enjoys the history of plants, as well as for the cocktail enthusiast, the mixologist, brewer, the vintner, the distiller, at the at-home cordial maker or home brewer. I know that I will refer to this book again and again.

Amy Stewart is a contributing editor at Fine Gardening, owns Eureka Books with her husband, located in Eureka, California. www.drunkenbotanist.com

Two Gardeners, Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence, A Friendship in Letters edited by Emily Herring Wilson, Beacon Press, 2002.

This book is not so recent, though it is new to me–a gardening friend recommended that I’d enjoy it–so I ordered it and am glad that I did. It truly is a friendship in letters that spans nearly 20 years, and the connection is a love and passion for gardening. The correspondence between Katharine S. White, who was an editor at The New Yorker, and Elizabeth Lawrence, a noted southern garden writer and author of Gardening for Love and A Southern Garden, began when Mrs. White published her first column “Onward and Upward in the Garden” in 1958. Mrs. Lawrence wrote her a letter of encouragement in regards to her column with some suggestions… and Mrs. White replied… and that was the start of their correspondence.

Over the years, they shared gardening experiences and information, catalogues, references and nurserymen, books and plants, and more. Their mutual respect and admiration for one another also grew into a strong and devoted friendship. Their correspondence nurtured one another–not just in their gardens and their writing–over the years, they shared joys and sorrows from family life to the frustrations of growing old and failing health. This is a glimpse into the lives of two talented garden writers from the past and their unique friendship that they formed later in life.

Happy June! Here’s to reading and relaxing this summer; please reply in comments and send me some of your recent picks for summer reading.

Stay tuned for reviews about Mr. Wilkinson’s Vegetables, A Cookbook to Celebrate the Garden and Deborah Madison’s latest book, Vegetable Literacy–both splendid cookbooks featuring garden-fresh vegetables–I’ll cover them in my next post.



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