Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion in-store October

Stephanie Alexander's hefty tome, The Cook's Companion, has become revered in homes across Australia since it was published in 1996. Back then, she felt it was time for a comprehensive book referencing Australian seasons and ingredients, and she was right. Devoid of photographs and with 1100 pages, it has sold almost 500,000 copies worldwide.

Her new red-clothed Kitchen Garden Companion is no less weighty at 771 pages and just as timely, celebrating the resurgence of the backyard vegetable garden. For the past 10 years, Alexander has encouraged children to grow, harvest and cook fresh food with her school kitchen garden program. Now there's a practical text book to make this venture accessible to everyone, with or without a garden. An inner-city courtyard or a sunny balcony can host thriving edible plants, and even apartment-dwellers can compost, according to Alexander.

Kitchen Garden Companion deals specifically with Australian conditions, but Alexander warns it is not a complete reference book. It contains ''the vegetables, fruits and herbs used most widely in Australian kitchens, along with a few of my favourite less well-known ingredients such as amaranth and warrigal greens.''

It takes commitment to grow food this way, as the writer acknowledges: ''Creating your first food garden will involve much trial and error, and probably frustration, as you begin to understand your garden.''

Her practical advice ranges from building a simple worm farm to the steps needed to create a no-dig garden.

There are recipes throughout and like The Cook's Companion, they are arranged alphabetically by ingredient, from amaranth (a green leafy vegetable native to South America) to zucchini. The difference is each one begins with growing instructions, including soil preparation, water requirements and pest control.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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