I always love gardening books that feel like cookbooks, especially those that include recipes with their growing guidance. As the tomato adviser for Seed Savers Exchange, Craig LeHoullier knows a thing or two about the history, diversity and growing techniques used to produce one of the most beloved (and tricky) plants in any backyard garden.
He’s compiled 30 years’ worth of research into “Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time” (Storey Publishing, $19.95), a book as bright and enjoyable to flip through as it is informative and practical for gardeners who know their Brandywines from their Beefsteaks.
On the cooking side, LeHoullier shares a few recipes written in a traditional format but, for the most part, writes about the many ways he’s enjoyed eating tomatoes over the years, including a primer on how to host a Tomatopalooza tomato tasting. Outside the kitchen, the author goes even deeper into how to crossbreed your own varieties, numerous ways to save the seeds and how to troubleshoot bugs, wilted leaves, spots on the fruit and other common problems.
In one of the most touching chapters, readers get to see scanned copies of some of the countless letters that LeHoullier has received from other passionate seed savers from around the world, many of which refer to grandparents or older relatives whose love of tomato-growing inspired their own.
It’s a sweet reminder of the history that we often overlook every time we put a seed in the ground.