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Very interesting book about the history of vegetables at least from the viewpoint of Western culture, and how some of these heirloom vegetables have survived in some form. Not really an actual gardening book, but if you have some gardening knowledge you can understand. Makes you realize just how fuzzy is our view of the history of cultivated vegetables, we basically know the outlines of the story but not the exact genetic details, we can only guess. This cultural details about our food history need to remembered, so much has changed in the last 100 years, the last 200 years, the last 500 years. Everything has been changed by Western civilization. But you can still grow and eat similar vegetables.
I liked this book for its nice photos of each vegetable, and the historical references. While it is not a "how to plant" manual, I quickly scanned through the vegetables I was interested in. I had bought some seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, and found the articles on each vegetable were mostly short with a history for some back to 1700s. Some very brief old time recipes are included. My interest in heirloom is for organic gardening (which these plants apparently thrived by for hundreds of years) with noted heat and drought tolerance. There are other books on horticultural history more detailed, no photos, and very expensive. Originally priced at $40US, I bought it for $18 last week and today it's $3 less which is annoying, but I feel I got a good book for a deal. There are other histories of horticultural which are more lengthy and detailed, which would be quite a bit more expensive.
I believe I read somewhere that this book by William Woys Weaver has been out- of -print for some time and Mother Earth News/Odgen Publications has reprinted it out of public demand, and because this is an important reference book on Heirloom Vegetables. This book is circa 2008; I don't know the original publishing date. Nevertheless, William Woys Weaver is considered first and foremost a scholar, as well as gardener, chef and novelist. The bibliography to this edition shows the extensive historical documentation he did in writing this book on Heirloom vegetables and plants. Peter Hatch wrote the forward to this book. Hatch is the director of the Thomas Jefferson Monticello gardens in Virginia and is also a must read author on the subject of Heirloom vegetables/Jefferson's Gardens; as he has over the years, painstakingly restored the Monticello vegetable gardens and other plants from Jefferson's own garden diaries, maps and notes. In his Forward Hatch says of Weaver's book:
"....Heirloom Vegetable Gardening is so important. This book is an encyclopedia , a dictionary to our lost vegetable heritage— defining the vocabulary of our vegetable past, providing a guide to an untranslated language." William, Weaver (2013-01-02). Heirloom Vegetable Gardening (Kindle Locations 94-95). Ogden Publications Inc.. Kindle Edition.
I love this book because W.W. Weaver discusses his own personal family history/connections with growing and saving Heirloom seeds and plants, and his extensive historical documentation of (books and other sources:) vegetables that range from 1591 through the colonial American period, including important tomes from France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy--to the present day. In this book Weaver outlines 750 types of vegetables and gives detailed profiles of 250 vegetables and plants. It is as Hatch says an encyclopedia. I would highly recommend reading this book along with Peter Hatch's book "A Rich Spot of Earth" Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello(circa 2012). I say this because I appreciated and understood so much more of Weaver's Heirloom Vegetable Gardening having previously read Hatch's book on Jefferson's gardens. As is true of Weaver's research with the present book; he discusses many of the same people and sources that Jefferson corresponded with in procuring seeds, plants, information, gardening techniques, etc. This review cannot give justice to all the historical information and knowledge that you will gain from reading this book and Peter Hatch as well. Both books combined, as a gardener, I have a greater sense of historical pride and understand the historical importance of continuing the gardening tradition that our founding fathers' started and a greater pride that I stand in the shadow of those who continue to educate us with their experiences and writings on Heirloom vegetables.
Bought used, you get a real bargain on a lovely book. Could definitely be put on a coffee table, the photography is colorful and tasteful. The information inside is really great for an amateur gardener too. I actually ended up saving a lot of money by ordering my seeds through some of the retailers suggested, and I got such fun and unusual varieties as well. There’s not as much info about seed saving as I was hoping but there are a lot of suggestions for follow-up reading.
This wonderful book has it all. Gorgeous photos, well-researched information, historical references and annotations, easy to read, and well laid out. It makes me want to seek out even more heirlooms to grow in my garden. So glad I bought this!
Great book for anyone interested in gardening heirloom fruits and vegetables. Author is extraordinarily knowledgeable and insightful. I bought the hard cover so I can treasure this forever in my library.