The Chinese Kitchen Garden: growing techniques and family recipes from a classic cuisine
By Wendy Kiang-Spray
Published by Timber Press
If you’re making a list and checking it twice…..of all the interesting and exciting vegetables and crops that you hope to grow next year, then you might be interested to read The Chinese Kitchen Garden, a charming book, written by Wendy Kiang-Spray.
You’ll find information on growing bitter melons, fuzzy melons, bottle gourds, bamboo, Chinese cucumbers, aubergines, chillies, day lilies, long beans, choy sum, bok choy, kabocha, tatsoi, water chestnuts, winter melons, luffa gourds, mung beans, malabar spinach, and taro root, as well as many other crops inside The Chinese Kitchen Garden.
The tips that Wendy Kiang-Spray provides for each plant in her book, The Chinese Kitchen Garden, are useful. Plenty of growing ideas and advice are offered, which will enable the reader to grow each vegetable successfully. Wendy helps her readers to make the most of each crop’s particular flavour in the delicious recipes that she provides.
In her book, The Chinese Kitchen Garden, author Wendy Kiang-Spray shares a personal account of her upbringing, her family, and their relationship with the food they have grown, nurtured, and shared together.
The author narrates memories of her childhood, her family, and the different vegetables they have grown and eaten, sharing family recipes, gardening tips and insights with the reader. The author recounts her family’s influences from Chinese, Hong-Kong, and American cuisine, conveying her family’s expressions of love for each other through the vegetables they have grown and the special dishes they have prepared, for memorable family meals they’ve shared together.
The Chinese Kitchen Garden is a truly lovely book. Throughout the course of reading this book, I was frequently moved as I sensed the author’s love and admiration for her family, and their shared satisfaction and delight in their accomplishments of growing and preparing delicious food for each other. The Chinese Kitchen Garden is a very personal book, family photographs accompany the family recipes, as the importance of handing down treasured recipes from one generation to the next is underlined and the author’s personal experience is shared.
Together with helpful seasonal tasks and thoughts on each season, The Chinese Kitchen Garden lists each vegetable in accordance to the season the vegetable is harvested in. It might have been easier for readers, if the vegetables had been listed in the order of their time of sowing or planting. This adaptation of the book’s layout would have made it quicker for readers to find the relevant crops they could sow for the current season, which would have been especially beneficial for readers who were without sufficient time or energy to read the book in its entirety, and wanted to source the information on relevant crops quickly.
One aspect of this book’s layout and design that I did fully appreciate, indeed I was delighted to find, was that each plant is listed with its botanical name, common name, Cantonese, and Mandarin names. Having the full knowledge of the plant’s name will help to ensure that readers are able to correctly, and more easily source the plants that they wish to grow.
Another very positive factor for readers is that for each vegetable listed in The Chinese Kitchen Garden, the author lists some of the more widely known vegetables that can be used in the same way as the vegetable produced by the plant in question. This will help readers to learn more of the qualities of each vegetable and identify with the plant, even if it was entirely unheard of prior to opening the book. The author does all she can to help the reader to identify and understand each vegetable.
There is a recipe for each vegetable listed in The Chinese Kitchen Garden, together with information on how to prepare and use each vegetable in the kitchen, with details of the plant’s health benefits, vitamins, and nutrients.
I think there are around five vegetarian recipes inside The Chinese Kitchen Garden, although the recipes that contain meat could of course be adapted to suit vegetarians. The recipes featured in The Chinese Kitchen Garden are not time consuming, they are quick to prepare. I am certain that The Chinese Kitchen Garden would really appeal to a wide range of readers including keen cooks, as well as gardeners. This book has a certain charm, it would make a lovely gift for anyone looking for new gardening or culinary adventures.
Throughout The Chinese Kitchen Garden, author Wendy Kiang-Spray gives advice and tips on how to grow the vegetables she has grown up with. Chinese growing and gardening methods are explained, together with any tips that the author has gleaned from her family and her own experience of how best to grow each plant, with details of the tools you’ll need, or might benefit from using. The theory behind the gardening methods and practices are clearly explained.
There is a plethora of information inside The Chinese Kitchen Garden. The advice is warmly given, which is rather lovely, it’s like receiving advice from a friend.
British gardeners, who are new to growing a number of these vegetables may have to undertake some additional research to discover how hardy or frost tolerant some of the vegetables are, and when to sow each seed, to ensure that the plant has sufficient time to grow and ripen its produce before the colder weather arrives in autumn. Having said that, I am sure that Wendy Kiang-Spray will have inspired all of her readers to grow each of the vegetables she describes in The Chinese Kitchen Garden, and that her readers will enjoy reading this book as much as I have.
For more information about The Chinese Kitchen Garden by Wendy Kiang-Spray, which is published by Timber Press, please click here.
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