Five Garden Books for Chefs: The Books Every Chef Needs in Their Library
No Chef starts at the top. And for all the cooks working to become executive chefs, you have to be hungry for knowledge both in and out of the kitchen. For chefs looking to become legends, there has to be an appreciation for where food comes from. Understanding seasonality, soil health, plant varieties, and how food actually grows are essential to developing a better palette. Ultimately, they are a vital avenue to improving your technical cooking skills.
While classics like The Flavor Bible and everything by James Beard is good for expanding your knowledge of food, there are a few garden books that every great chef should read. Especially chefs that are serious about creating an amazing garden for their restaurants. To any chef in southern California, having a culinary garden – even if it’s primarily for fresh herbs and edible flowers – is easier than you might think depending on local regulations.
Here are Heirloom Potager’s recommendations for the top five garden books for chefs. Don’t be surprised when you dogear and write in the margins for all of them. They are that good – even if you never have the joy of tending to your own chef’s garden.
Edible Flowers: How, Why, and When We Eat Flowers by Monica Nelson
Released in 2021, Nelson’s book is long overdue. There are several books about edible flowers and medicinal plants, but few are as succinct and comprehensive. With stunning artistic photographs and historical tidbits, this book will surely inspire and expand the possibilities to create stunning plates. Even for an adventurous gardener, this book highlights new edible flower options that will be making appearances in future Heirloom Potager garden designs. If you’re serious about amping up your plating presentation, you’ll want to bring this to future meetings with local growers. Getting your hands on some of these options will take serious convincing for farmers to make adjustments to their growing methods.
The Cook’s Herb Garden: Grow, Harvest, Cook by Jeff Cox and Marie Pierre Moine
Hands down one of my favorite garden books. The Cook’s Herb Garden is an easy-to-use reference for understanding flavor, hardiness, and varietals. Reprinted a few years ago, I love the suggested herb container garden combinations (hello, new entrance planters)! The handy references for how to care for, harvest, preserve, and use the herbs fresh or dried is not only helpful, but inspiring. From teas, to cordials, rubs, and sauces, this is a less intensive Flavor Bible substitute.
The Chef’s Garden: A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables With Recipes by Farmer Lee Jones
One of the most regarded and unknown influences on modern American culinary culture is Farmer Lee Jones. He is praised by chefs across the globe, and yet he is hardly a household name. Farmer Jones’ appreciation for flavor and the preservation of heirloom varieties is only one part of his legacy. At the forefront of the farmer-led movement to take back old farming methods and shun corporate farming, Jones created The Chef’s Garden as an education center and farm-to-table provider to culinary powerhouses across the globe. His family’s dedication to bringing back long-forgotten varieties has helped preserve these amazing heirlooms for generations to come. The book is organized as a guide to help chefs discover new options, harvest, care for, and use to create new recipes.
The Garden Chef: Recipes and Stories from Plant to Plate
If you’re serious about growing your own chef’s garden, this is a must-read. Featuring forty of the best culinary gardens around the world (and recipes from the creative geniuses behind the apron), The Garden Chef dives deep into the size, scope, and practicality of caring for an edible garden. If a garden is an integral part of your culinary vision, add this to your library. Gardens are imperfect masterpieces influenced by nature that must be appreciated for the abundance they provide, even if it may not be what’s expected. We love designing and installing gorgeous functional gardens of all sizes, but it is important to note a production-level garden requires a hefty amount of maintenance from the pros (the HP Garden team) and from the culinary staff. If you’re looking for investors or planning a new restaurant adventure, this book will be invaluable to helping start the big conversations.
The Elegant and Edible Garden: Design a Dream Kitchen Garden to Fit Your Personality, Desires, and Lifestyle by Linda Vater
Recently released, I love the practical approach Linda Vater of the popular @potagerblog uses to organize her book about creating a gorgeous edible garden. While it’s written with residential garden design in mind, the book offers creative solutions if your culinary garden will be an essential part of the restaurant ambiance. Too often edible plants are overlooked or dismissed when they are an awesome option for adding style, grace, and sophistication to a space. Whether you have a small footprint or an expansive space, adding edible plants to your restaurant is not only feasible but is an essential investment if you consider seasonality and fresh ingredients a vital part of your culinary vision.
Bonus Book Suggestion
The New Heirloom Garden: Designs, Recipes, and Heirloom Plants for Cooks Who Love to Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden
Ellen Ecker Ogden has been designing heirloom-centric gardens for over twenty years. The organization of this book is similar to The Chef’s Garden but less intensive. However, what it lacks in scope, it makes up for in actual garden design inspiration complete with suggested plants and space allocation. The garden plans are curated based on various culinary aspects – heirlooms, herbs, medicinal, flowers, and design-centric spaces. Full of seasonal recipes, this book will not sit on the shelf collecting dust.
There are a multitude of good books on the subjects of gardening, cooking, and edible gardening. These six tomes are excellent foundations to educate yourself on edible gardening, culinary garden design and maintenance, and inspiration to expand your creativity and expertise in the kitchen. Happy reading!
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