The 5 best garden cookery books

September 20th, 2015 Posted In: Shop

You need garden cookery books if you grow your own vegetables or buy seasonal veg.

They offer lots of easy, delicious recipes to make the most of your harvest or market bargains. You won’t find yourself cooking the same thing for weeks on end.

Five garden cookery books I use every day.

My top garden cookery books – falling apart from constant use.

(If you’d like more tips on growing veg all year round, see this post here. Or if you havent’ tried growing chillies yet, but want a really, easy useful grow-your-own plant, see here.)

But whether I’ve grown it myself or bought from our local farmers’market, I’ve gone back to the same books again and again. So I thought they might be useful to you too.

Three of my top 5 garden cookery books no longer have spines and two are missing either a front or back cover. Mr Middle-Size has repaired them with duct tape more than once.

The garden cookery books that really stand the test of time

Many ‘best-selling’ cookery books shoot into the charts because they’re linked to a TV programme – then vanish when the programme does. A cookery book still being sold five-plus years later means that people really are using it and recommending it, not just leaving it to gather dust.

Several of these were published more than 10 years ago but are still in print. You can buy these from Amazon by clicking on either the book title or cover. I am an Amazon affiliate so if you do buy via this link I may get a small fee, but it won’t add to your cost.

Let me know if you have a cookbook that you always turn to when cooking from the garden or farmer’s market – do share this using the buttons below. Thank you!














Sarah Raven's Food for Friends and Family

This is the pink book at the top of the pile whose cover has dropped off from constant use (and it's a well-made book, so not the fault of the publisher).

When I dug up my last few Pink Fir Apple potatoes and multi-coloured carrots last weekend, it was Food for Friends & Family that delivered deliciousness.

Sarah Raven's cookery books are often based on the produce she grows herself at Perch Farm - perfect for those who like to cook fresh seasonal food. Hers is also a very contemporary style of cooking - easy and relaxed, with a good mix of flavours and not alot that can go wrong

Appetite: So What Do You Want to Eat Today?

Appetite is a core cookery book for every kitchen. As you can see from the main picture on this page, it's even more battered than 'Food for Friends'.

Each section is based around a key food, such as soup, rice or vegetables. He offers a basic recipe, then suggests variations on each dish. It's very helpful for those browsing from the garden and fridge, trying to put together supper from a disparate set of ingredients.

'Appetite' encourages experimentation - if you don't have one cheese, herb or spice to hand, you can substitute another.

Nigel Slater has a light, chatty style, suggesting what works and what doesn't - a good place to start when faced with an ingredient and not much idea of what to do with it.

Our tomatoes this year have been a bit woolly - probably the result of too much rain - so roasting them focuses the flavour better than eating them raw in salads. Nigel's recipe for roasted tomato sauce was easy, unassuming and surprisingly delicious. He is not in any sense a vegetarian cook (and it's not a vegetarian book), but there is plenty of good advice on cooking vegetables.


'Plenty' has revolutionised the lives of vegetarians everywhere. They no longer get given omelette or quiche when going to non-vegetarian houses.

In spite of the fact that it's strongly influenced by global (especially Middle Eastern) cuisine, it is a brilliant book for the gardening cook in Britain.

When I was given the ceps last weekend, I turned to Ottolenghi and found 'Mushroom ragout with poached egg'. Recipes often have a long list of ingredients because of all the herbs and spices, but they're easy to use.

Other great grow-your-own recipes include 'Spicy Moroccan carrot salad' and 'Roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette', which can be adapted for roasting all root vegetables.

Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook

It was a battle as to whether Sarah Raven's Food for Friends or Garden Cookbook would come first in this list, as I use both constantly.

I think I've probably cooked more from Food for Friends, but the Garden Cookbook is the book I bought when I first started growing veg.

It's arranged seasonally, written specifically for those who grow their own fruit and veg or who buy from farmers' markets or veg delivery boxes. It's also great on preserves and relishes.

Tender: Volume I, A cook and his vegetable patch

This is an excellent garden cookery reference book. It has some useful information about growing in it - it's subtitled 'A cook and his vegetable patch'.

Tender is Nigel's diary of how he became a grow-your-own enthusiast (although I wouldn't turn to it if I had a gardening question).

However, its main seasonal cooking strength lies in the way it's arranged alphabetically, in a list of the commonest veg grown at home in the Northern hemisphere, from asparagus to turnips. Nigel's chatty style conveys masses of advice easily, so you'll learn lots about cooking potatoes, parsnips, beans, squash, tomatoes...

River Cottage Fruit & Veg

I said this would be my 'top 5' garden cookery books, but so many people recommended this on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the comment below. I felt I should include it, and am excited about trying it myself.

Every Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe I've ever tried has worked out very well, so this will be an excellent addition to the cookery bookshelf.

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7 comments on "The 5 best garden cookery books"

  1. I am a big fan of Christopher Lloyd’s ‘Gardener Cook’

    1. Must try it – I saw a copy when I was last at Dixter, but I hadn’t thought of him as a cook, thanks for letting me know.

  2. Claire Cox says:

    Totally agree about the Sarah Raven books, although as I live alone, the Garden Cookbook is my go-to option. Also love Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg and Fruit books and Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries always come up trumps. Amazing how often I open the books at the same date to find he’s cooking whatever produce I’m wondering what to do with!

    1. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s books have come up in comments on Twitter, so I must get one. And I haven’t got Kitchen Diaries yet – one for the Christmas list.

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