I found The Curious Gardener by Anna Pavord to be an enjoyable read, in fact I think anyone interested in gardening and the countryside would like it.
Subtitled A Year in the Garden, the book is divided up into the 12 months of the year, with each month having a few pages titled Tasks for the Month at the end of it, but there are also lots of useful tips along the way, such as how to prune the various different types of clematis and how to deal with a vast glut of tomatoes. Apparently you should just freeze them whole, then when you want to use them the skins come off with no bother at all if you run cold water over them. Pavord says: I froze 60 lbs of tomatoes last year – she grew them outside, not under glass, I couldn’t help feeling jealous!
Sadly I’ve never had a problem with a glut of tomatoes, despite having grown them in a greenhouse in the past. I’m left wondering exactly how big her garden is, it must be enormous.
It’s not all gardening though as she throws in memories of her younger days when she was first married and her guests learned to bring their own cutlery with them as she didn’t have much in the way of utensils and daughters’ wedding flowers. In fact this book is a right good melange of topics, a bit like a nice chat with a good friend which usually ends up going off at all sorts of tangents.
She tells of gardens in different countries such as the US and Italy and tells you how to grow lemon grass from the stalks which you can buy from the supermarket. I’ve grown a ginger plant from supermarket ginger roots before, I’m definitely going to give lemon grass a go.
As well as introducing the reader to a lot of interesting gardeners and gardens and the best kind of beans, potatoes, tomatoes …. to grow, she also tells of her experiences of morphine whilst she was recovering from having various bits of cancer cut out from her. She had to give up on the morphine as it made her retch which caused horrible pain, and instead she concentrated on the scent from the sweet peas which her husband brought in for her each day from her garden, and that helped her feel better.
I haven’t mentioned the woodcuts which decorate the beginning of each monthly section. They’re by Howard Phipps and are really very good. I love woodcuts anyway, I’m always so impressed by the detail in them as I know how time consuming and finicky the process is. You can see images of his work here. All in all this is a very good book and I think I might end up buying myself a copy (I borrowed this one from the library) either that or I’ll have to skim through it again, taking notes as I go, just in case I ever do decide to grow tatties or whatever.
Anna Pavord writes for The Independent and some of the articles which are in this book have appeared in print there previously.