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From seed to table, handbook can help

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By Bill Daley
Chicago Tribune
Published:
An apple infamously did the trick for Adam and Eve, but for Willi Galloway, it was the seed pod of a forgotten radish that opened her eyes.
It was that crunchy, spicy pod, tossed back as an impromptu snack, that changed the writer and editor's perspective on kitchen gardening.
"I looked around, suddenly aware of all sorts of roots, leaves, blossoms and seeds I'd never before considered as food, and asked myself a simple question: 'What else can I eat?'" she recalled in the introduction to "Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover's Guide to Vegetable Gardening" (Sasquatch, $29.95), her new book that outlines her discoveries.
It is a "full circle" handbook, ranging from preparing the soil and planting seeds to harvesting, storing and cooking the produce grown in a garden.
While the book includes 50 recipes that could, of course, be made with vegetables, fruits and herbs bought at the market, it is the growing cycle that's key in Galloway's view.
"To grow food is to really know food. Not just in the sense of knowing where the vegetables on your plate come from, but how their appearance, flavor and texture change as they grow," she writes in the book, adding a few sentences later: "Gardening gives you a change to reacquaint yourself with food you thought you knew -- like radishes."
What does Galloway do with those radishes?
The sprouts end up in salads. Some of the roots are pulled when marble-size, others at the larger size so often found in the grocery store. The greens get cooked like spinach, the flowers are a garnish, the pods are snacks.
Galloway's tone, both in print and in a phone interview from Portland, Ore., is enthusiastic and sensible. Even the inevitable thinning of seedlings -- something that can bring a pang to some gardeners' hearts -- is turned into a positive.
"Think of thinnings as the first crop," she said. "Any sprout tastes good in a grilled cheese, and they look pretty as a garnish."
Galloway, who writes the blog DigginFood.com and dispenses advice on Seattle's public radio station, KUOW (94.9 FM), gets a lot of questions about harvesting.
"(People) are so worried about doing it at the wrong time," she said. "They're waiting until the food looks like it belongs in a supermarket.
"They're harvesting beets when the beets are really huge and throwing out the greens. They've never grown food before, so they never know what to do with it."
She wants readers to leaf through the book, find something that looks good to them and try growing it.
"You don't have to be a farmer to grow bok choy, and if it doesn't quite work out, you can still eat it," she said, adding with a laugh, "I kill something different every year. I forget to water, or seedlings don't sprout, or something doesn't go right.
"That's the great thing about gardening. Every year is different, every year you learn new tricks."

Garden tips
Grow what you like to eat. "If you don't like green beans, there's no need to grow them," Willi Galloway says. If space is tight, grow only what you eat a lot of. For Galloway, that means lots of salad greens, tomatoes and squash.
Grow the pricey stuff. "A box of salad at the market will cost $5. A seed packet is $2.95 and you will be able to eat greens for months," she said.
Grow herbs. "Herbs make foods taste so much better and are so cheap to grow," Galloway said.
Listen and learn. "The best way to become a better gardener is to talk to other gardeners and look at their gardens," she said. "Talk with other gardeners at nurseries, garden clubs. Talk to master gardeners at farmers markets. You'll get ideas and might make some new friends."
Story tags » CookingGardeningLocal Food

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