ISBN 978 1 900322 17 1. “How to Store Your Garden Produce – The key to self-sufficiency” was written by Piers Warren and published by Green Books Ltd in this revised and enlarged edition in 2008. It seems further recipes were added in the 2009 reprint – this 143 page book boasts two parts, intro and index. The look and feel of the printed book is the same as Charles Dowding’s “Organic Gardening – The natural no dig way” so you get large sections of text with only token illustrations although the centre section boasts some colour photo’s (none of which add much in the way of explanation). This is how gardening books were produced for many years up until the 1970’s when the Readers Digest hit the market with what we call the ‘coffee table’ style of publishing. Modern books are lavishly illustrated in both colour and with line illustrations showing you exactly how to perform the tasks in the text. Green Books’ style is a throwback to the past and it does them no favours if they wish to attract a wider audience. Gardening books are two-a-penny. It is a crowded market so if you want to stand out you probably have to put a but more work into in that has been put into these books. Rather they are for the purist than the for those with an occasional interest. These are books you have to seek out. Cosmetics to one side for a moment – this book is great for its content. It is thorough and it is British.
You learn about crops that grow in this country and they are given the common names we give them here. No need to translate from the American. Breath a sigh of relief. This is a practical guide. It has everything in delightful bite-sized chunks. It is more text book than thrilling read. A flick through will feed the imagination but none other than the hardened foodie is going to read every last line. What you read here has to be practically applied. Hence you are likely to grow the food first then wonder what to do with it. Hence every kitchen should have this book on the shelf. It is conceivable that it may work the other way of course – some may prefer to put the cart before the horse and read the book before planning what to grow. We are sure that would work too!
The methods covered include clamping (hadn’t even heard of that before), bottling, drying, salting, freezing (that seems to apply for everything!), vacuum packing, pickling, chutney making, relishes, ketchup, sauces, jams, jellies, fruit butters, fruit cheeses and fermenting. This is why the book often ends up looking like a recipe book. In a few cases it even looks like the recipes may reduce the lifespan of the food rather than increase it. Most methods end up with you having to freeze the result. At this point we hit a bit of a problem – space. To do half of what this book describes requires lots of storage space. You need a big chest freezer or freezers. Storing carrots in boxes of sand requires lots of storage space. All methods seem to require you to add a lot of energy be it through blanching, cooking or freezing. Sometimes you have to simmer and simmer and simmer…. Other methods require the addition of lots of salt, sugar or vinegar. One wonders whether some of these methods are just unsustainable? Will we have endless supplies of sugar and salt in future? Both require lots of energy to process. It looks as if the CO2 footprint of every method should be measured to see how best we can preserve food without resorting to endless cheap oil. So it is no panacea. Is this the key to self-sufficiency? A little yes, a little no. One final note: watch out for the anecdotes. Fascinating as they may be at least a couple are of dubious accuracy. WWII RAF aircrew were not fed carrots to enable them to see in the dark. That was propaganda to disguise the fact that night-fighters had been equipped with radar… Nevertheless – a recommended book.