Magazine article The Spectator

Stir Fry Your Daylilies

Magazine article The Spectator

Stir Fry Your Daylilies

Article excerpt

For many years, for no good reason that I can think of, horticultural authors largely chose to ignore the close connection which exists between the growing and the cooking of edible plants. Even books concerned specifically with the kitchen garden would rarely dwell much on what might happen to the produce once it had been produced, except perhaps to mention harvesting, preparation and freezing, often en passant.

This tendency could not possibly persist for ever. After all, trends are usually cyclical and 19th-century garden writers, like Mrs Earle (she of Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden and the blessedly-named Gardening for the Ignorant fame), interspersed cooking hints and recipes, as a matter of course, amongst the gardening advice. Overseeing both activities was part of a housewife's function, so nuggets of culinary wisdom were scattered amongst the pages as thickly as the seed of love-in-a-mist is scattered in the border in spring.

I suppose the divorce between garden and kitchen in books and articles may well have reflected the rigid division of labour that so many private households observed for most of this century, with men concentrating their efforts outside to mowing lawns and growing vegetables, and giving the kitchen stove a wide berth. They may also have suffered from a reluctance to harvest what had been so carefully grown, a tendency from which I, as a better gardener than cook, am by no means immune. Now that division of labour has partly crumbled, the change in attitude is evident in a number of recent gardening books which interlace cookery recipes and advice with plant descriptions and growing instructions. (I leave out of this discussion herbs which have traditionally been written about in terms of the ways in which they may be used.)

Things have changed a lot in the last five years. As an example, in 1993 and 1994, the Bryansground Press, which publishes Hortus, the literary gardening periodical, brought out eight issues of Convivium The Journal of Good Eating, which connected the kitchen garden firmly with the kitchen. Although it was short-lived, this journal demonstrated the way that the wind was blowing.

Several books have been published since, including Anna Pavord's lively and highly practical The New Kitchen Garden (Dorling Kindersley, 1996) which contains a number of pertinent recipes, and Christopher Lloyd's excellent, opinionated Gardener Cook (Frances Lincoln, 1997), in which the author owned up to not having cooked anything except chocolate buns and fry-ups until 1975, when the death of his cook drove him into the kitchen and he learned to love cooking, especially what his garden produced. …

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