By Debra Knapke
We have a rule in our house – which I don’t always follow: if I buy a book I must have a place to put it. Libraries are one of our greatest institutions as I can’t buy all the books I want, but I can borrow them and peruse them over a cup of tea.
I just took out two delightful summer fare books, You Bet Your Garden Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes by Mike McGrath and Locally Grown: Portraits of Artisanal Farms from America’s Heartland by Anna Blessing.
McGrath’s book on tomatoes is perfect for the beginner gardener. There are portraits of individual tomatoes and a list of “Top Tomatoes” that will get your mouth-watering for these popular heirlooms. All aspects of tomato culture are covered in easy-to-digest prose. The sidebars cover related issues such as soil prep, tomato cage specifications and how to figure out when and how much to water. Plus, there are many small tidbits of information that all gardeners know after years of trial and error (isn’t that what gardening is all about?) If you’ve been waiting for a compact and informative how-to on tomatoes, this is it.
In Anna Blessing’s book, I embarked on an armchair journey of family farms that supply many restaurants in Chicago with fresh, locally grown and raised food. The recipes alone attracted me as I flipped through this book in the library. But I was also fascinated in the stories of the farmers who have committed to growing fruits, vegetables and herbs and raising animals in a respectful, responsible and sustainable way. I have written down some of the recipes and noted some of the restaurants for our next trip to Chicago. This time we will know where to eat.