The best books, in my humble opinion, are the ones that make you look at things in a new way. I was excited to read Gayla Trail’s latest, Grow Great Grub: Organic Food From Small Spaces, because I’m a big fan of her blog as well as her first book, You Grow Girl. I’ve been gardening for a long time, so I thought that, at best, the time I spent reading this book would be enjoyable — I’d get to immerse myself in Trail (and partner Davin Risk’s) signature, gorgeous, lush photography, and, knowing her writing style, enjoy a little bit of humor along the way.
What I was not expecting was that this book would make my mind race with the possibilities open to me in my own garden. I’ve been gardening here for seven years now. I have a system! But now I’m looking at the front steps and picturing a staggered row of large olive oil cans planted with herbs, wondering why I waste precious bed space for potatoes when they can be surprisingly beautiful growing in a metal trash can. I’m inspired.
But it’s not all pretty pictures and inspiration. No, there is solid, useful information here, too. From growing microgreens on your windowsill to creating a self-watering container, to cooking and preserving the bounty, you couldn’t ask for a clearer, more enjoyable treatise on how to grow and use the food in your garden. The recipes are unique without being fussy, and I love the fact that each entry for the different types of edibles includes information about which varieties to grow in containers.
As if that weren’t enough, there are the charts. I love charts. Charts are the best! (Yes, I’m channeling “Elf” there…) I love being able to look at a page in a book, and, at a glance, have my question answered. For example, there is a very thorough chart about the different flavor profiles of edible flowers. Looking for a citrusy flavor? Try Tuberous Begonia. Want something fresh or fruity? Shiso will fill the bill. And then there’s the chart on page 43. “Good Contenders for Poor Conditions.” If you’ve ever wondered how you can use the area of your garden in which the soil is depleted, or soggy, or shady, or just too hot for most things to grow — you will love this page. As someone who is struggling to find a few more feet in my own garden to grow edibles, I have been growing in “less than ideal” conditions for a while now. The information in this chart opens up new possibilities for me.
Yes, I’m gushing. I admit it. This book is the real deal, a book that anyone who wants to grow food needs to have on their shelf. If it can teach this “old” gardener a few new tricks, imagine what it can do for someone who’s just trying growing their own food for the first time.
About The Author: Gayla Trail is a writer, photographer, and graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the creator of the popular gardening project, You Grow Girl (now in its 10th year) and the author of You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening as well as an in-demand gardening personality and spokesperson with a focus on urban gardening, growing food, sustainable living, and community. Her work as a writer and photographer has appeared in the Globe and Mail, New York Times, Newsweek, ReadyMade, Domino, Budget Living, Sierra Club Magazine, Gardening Life, LA Times, Life Magazine, and more.
Disclaimer: I was provided with an advanced review copy of this book by the publisher with the understanding that the decision to review the book, and the contents of that review, were solely my own. This review encompasses my own opinion of the book, and has been influenced in no way by the publisher or the fact that they provided a copy for review.