Authors:  Jere and Emilee Gettle, with Meghan Sutherland

Publisher: Hyperion Books – 227 pages

Book Review by Laxmi Chaandi

Recent books (such as notably, The China Study) on the harmful effects upon health of eating meat, have led many hundreds of thousands of people in the United States to become vegetarians. As a consequence it is no surprise that I have been noticing in produce sections of supermarkets the availability of ever-larger varieties of fruits, grains and vegetables.

Some U.S. families have also begun growing some of their food at home. Studies sow that the number of households growing food crops increased 20 percent from 2008 to 2009. By 2010, there was a 400 percent growth of farmers markets in America compared to 1994.

And, as more families are eating organically-grown food, they’re moving away from vegetables and fruits that have been treated with pesticides, other toxic chemicals and harmful preservatives. They are also avoiding genetically-modified foods.

So, books like this one, on growing your own food in natural ways from pure seeds are becoming increasingly more valuable and popular.

This is a large-size book with full-color photographs of a large range of vegetables – leafy ones, from the ground, and other types – as well as varieties of succulent fruit, farm scenes and farmers’ markets.

Viewing the photos, you can almost taste the sweet, juicy, dark-pink inside portion of that watermelon; you want to put those slices of red, ripe crunchy tomatoes in between your teeth; you want to rip out a floret from that large snowball cauliflower, dip it in peppercorn-flavored dip, chew and gulp it down; you want to put that whole little purple candy-striped Chioggia beet into your mouth to taste it.

You want to discover the taste of that Cassabanana as it turns color from green, looking like a cucumber, and ripens into a brownish red, looking like a thick sausage; you want to savor those orange-color Chinese Lanterns, beautiful members of the ground cherry family; you want to discover how different is the luscious yellow-green-white layered French d’Or melon from the honey dew variety you’re familiar with. And what does that two-feet-long, pale orange “banana melon” taste like? Or how those Russian melons, that look like regular watermelons, but have red, not green, skins, taste like?

A picture says a thousand words, as is said often, and we human beings tend to look at photographs before we read the text. The photography in this book is very helpful in highlighting the importance of eating natural foods grown in small farms like the ones shown in this book. The large number of photographs provided in this book is a plus point for it.

A second merit is its simplicity of organization of materials. Its Contents page lists just eight chapters or sections – a rarity in books of 200+ pages.

And of its 227 pages, more than half are part of its “A to Z Growing Guide,” which represents the basic purpose and very essence of this book: to provide guidance to readers on how to grow various fruits and vegetables.

The husband-and-wife team of farmers – the Gettles – start out the book by relating to you of their past years growing up with heirloom seeds (pure ones, flavorful and nutrient-rich); about the seed company they own which sells about two million seeds a year and promotes the growing of pure, healthy food; and about seeds they have found from their travels in the United States and around the world.

Then they show you how to garden: the most useful part of the book. You learn how to save seeds and how to grow them into veggies and fruits. If you live in the cities, as I assume most readers do, that is the most challenging place to grow anything because of the very limited space available. They instruct you on how to grow food on small pieces land or even just small pots placed on window sills, balconies and other small areas.

Then you go into the details of growing a large number of different vegetables and fruits in the largest (120-plus page) section, the “A to Z Growing Guide.”

The Getttles say that they have more than 3,000 varieties of vegetables and fruits in their inventory. In their guide to growing, they present about 50 of those varieties, ranging from the amaranth (a grain similar to millet, quinoa and spelt) to the watermelon. The Gettles have produced an excellent book.