Book Review: Abundance by Alys Fowler June 24 2013

Abundance is the latest offering from Urban Gardening expert and sustainable living guru Alys Fowler. The author of two of my favourite gardening books, The Thrifty Gardener and The Thrifty Forager, Alys is back to teach us how to store and preserve the garden produce we’ve grown ourselves using the techniques of drying, pickling, fermenting, bottling and freezing. Narrowing the gap between growing your own and eating your own, Alys’s book speaks to a whole generation of gardeners who never inherited the skills that came naturally to our grandparents.

The title evokes that wonderful feeling of plenty and the book certainly delivers, leaving you with the immediate desire to pick some vegetables and make them into something special. It reflects a sort of borrowed nostalgia for something which we’ve missed out on, but are aware of from the stories we read as children, as well as a nod to a type of knowledge that has been passed down for centuries and in a generation has almost been lost. 

This book is full of ideas, recipes, images and anecdotes, comprising stories from Alys’s past and stories she has gathered from other sources, along with tips on growing, harvesting and storing. It serves as a call to action and demonstrates how to become more self-sufficient, to save money, to impress your friends, to enjoy summer flavours during the colder months. For anyone who has questioned their dependence on carbon-heavy, shop-bought produce, the book presents a host of fun, creative and inspiring solutions. 

From Japanese pickles to no-sugar raspberry jam and Alys’s carrot top pesto, this book has something for everyone. Recipes are presented not as fine cuisine, but as “a shortcut to a better meal”. Yet they sound amazing; Kimchi, tabasco, broad bean falafel, and a range of chutneys along with practical tips to make sure the preparation goes to plan. “Be sensible”, Alys writes, “act cautiously, make small batches and vary them often”. And share, often. 

It’s incredibly informative, with information from the history of preservation and the importance of sterilisation to composting, each part scattered with tales like sowed seeds; a friend’s mother growing up in an Austrian mountain town, memories of harvest time, the strict teachers teaching Alys to pick apples at the RHS fruit orchards.

Illustrated throughout with bright, luscious photographs of the ingredients, recipes, and a smiling Alys on her allotment and in the kitchen, the book includes a number of useful graphics detailing, amongst other things, a scale of natural pectin levels in fruit. The images of frozen vegetables are enchanting. Filled with scientific sections on how vegetables decay and how fermenting and preserving work, it’s incredibly well laid out and thoughtfully put together. 

Since my work with FareShare and Carbon Conversations, I’ve become acutely aware of the importance of reducing my food footprint. Alys is great at sharing the skills you can use to preserve your home grown produce and keep your food footprint low without sounding preachy in any way. She understands the importance of communicating to people with a positive message – anyone who has tried to raise awareness in sceptical friends will appreciate that. So this is a book to share like jam.

Published by Kyle Books, Abundance is new to What You Sow and it’s a really cracking, exciting, inspiring read. And in celebration of our recent membership of Good Reads, where we’ll be regularly sharing reviews of my favourite gardening books, enter the code “goodreads” at the What You Sow checkout and I will give you 10% off Abundance or any other book you order from the shop. You can’t say fairer than that.

 

 

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