If you want to learn how to grow your own food, nothing beats getting out on the land and having a go. Learning by trial, error, watching what your neighbours do and what happens as the seasons change and crops adapt to what nature has to throw at them is the best way to do it. But for those hours when the sun has gone down or the ground is frozen solid and you feel like a bit of inspiration or insight here are some books I would recommend.
The seeds of Kokopelli: A manual for the production of seeds in the family garden and A Directory of Heritage Seeds
Ed Dominique Guillet Published by Association Kokopelli, English Version 2002
Covers the work of Kokopelli and their heritage seed saving programs as well as detailing historical information, seed production and varieties they carry.
Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners, Suzanne Ashworth, 2002
Used as the standard reference by the Seed Savers Exchange, USA. Clearly describes how to save the seeds from a wide range of edible plants at home.
Back Garden Seed Saving Keeping our Vegetable Heritage alive, Sue Strickland, Updated Edition 2008, Eco-logic books, Bath. First published 2001.
ISBN 978-1899233151 crop-by-crop guidelines for seed saving with some insightful history and information on old varieties
The Vegetable Garden (Illustrations, Descriptions and Culture of The Garden Vegetables of Cold and Temperate Climates) M.M Vilmorin, Andrieux. English edition Ten Speed Press First published 1885 ISBN 0-89815-041-8 The seminal work by Andrieux Vilmorin, of the French seed company family, describing the vegetable varieties available to the gardener in in the late 1800, their origin, history and notes on how best to cultivate them.
Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms Paul Stamets, Ten Speed Press, First published 1993 (3rd Ed)2000 The bible of mushroom cultivation offers a comprehensive and detailed guide to growing 31 species of mushrooms commercially or at home.
Breed Your Own Vegetable (Varieties The Gardener’s and Farmer’s Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving) Carol Deppe, Chelsea Green 2000. First published 1993 The best guide available for amateur plant breeders
Five Acres & Independence: A Practical Guide to the Selection and Management of the Small Farm
M G Kains, Cassell, USA First published 1947, second edition 1949
Written as a guide for the small farmer starting-out. The initial section on capital, investment and accounting may be out of date but much of the gardening know how is still sound today. In addition there are some interesting insights on older techniques and wisdom that we’d be wise to revisit.
The Complete Book of Vegetables Herbs and Fruit
Mathew Biggs, Jekka McVicar & Bob Flowerdew
Published 2002 Kyle Cathie Ltd.
An excellent anthology and reference for all kinds of vegetables, herbs and fruit; from the well known to the more unusual or exotic.
Grow Your Own Vegetables Joy Larkom 2002, Published by Frances Lincoln Ltd.
An easy and indispensable pocket size reference book.
The Organic Salad Garden
Joy Larkom 2001, Revised edition Published by Frances Lincoln Ltd.
Seminal book on growing over 200 kinds of leaf, flower, herbs, fruit, root, bulb and seeds for use in salads, with an emphasis on growing for flavour.
Oriental Vegetables Joy Larckom, John Murray, London 1991
Fascinating and well researched book detailing the history, cultivars, methods of cultivation and culinary uses of edible plants from the far east.
Asian Vegetables A Guide to Growing Fruit, Vegetables and Spices from the Indian Subcontinent Sally Cunningham, Eco-logic books, Bath. First published 2009
Inspired by the Indian market stalls full of exotic unknown edibles in England, the book explores the rich heritage of Indian vegetables and how many of them can be grown in cooler climates such as Britain.
Brief Account of the Fruit, Herbs & Vegetables of Italy Giacomo Castelvetro; 1614 unpublished Translated with an introduction by Gillian Riley, and finaly published in 1989.
Beautifully illustrated, fascinating and inspirational account of the seasonal produce of Italy, recounted by Castelvetro in 1614 during the last years of his life in England. The book was Castelvetro’s attempt to encourage better appreciation of a wider range of foodstuffs and how they should be cooked or prepared.
Four-Season Harvest; Organic Vegetables from your home garden all year long Eliot Coleman Revised and Expanded Ed 1999, Chelsea Green Publishing, USA.
Some useful tips of what and when to grow crops to ensure production all year round. Easy to translate the American zones to our latitude.
Propagating Plants RHS Editor-in-chief Alan Toogood, 1999, DK, London.
Expert and reliable guide to propagating over 1,500 plants that includes a special chapter on Vegetables.
Pruning and Training; A definitive practical guide to pruning trees, shrubs, roses and climbers. Christopher Brickwell & David Joyce 1996, DK, London.
Useful guide to formative training, renovation and pruning established plants and trees with a large portion of the book given over to tree and bush fruit.
Keeping Food Fresh, Old World Techniques and Recipes The gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivant. 1999, USA Translation Diane Côté, Originally published 1992, by Terre Vivante.
Excellent resource of handed down recipes and methods for preserving garden produce, contributed by members of Terre Vivant.