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75 Exciting Vegetables for Your Garden    by Jack Staub order for
75 Exciting Vegetables for Your Garden
by Jack Staub
Order:  USA  Can
Gibbs Smith, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jack Staub tells us that he has modeled his book, 75 Exciting Vegetables for Your Garden, on Lytton Strachy's Eminent Victorians. He offers to his readers 'Eminent vegetables. Entrancing vegetables. Heirloom and hybrid. Native and transplant.' He admires their physical beauty and makes sure the reader can too, by including lovely full-page watercolor drawings of each veggie.

Staub advises that each vegetable (presented in alphabetical order) can be cultivated in North America, though some need to be started indoors. He also stretches the term vegetable to include some fruits (tomatoes and eggplants) and berries (melons). He livens up the usual horticultural information with scraps of mythology, herbal lore, history, and culinary suggestions for the edible in question. There are even quotations like Mark Twain's 'Training is everything. Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education', and the Old English proverb, 'Onions make a man wink, drink and stink.' I also rather liked the limerick starring a flighty young girl from France and the Hanabero Pepper.

The book begins with the decorative Amaranth (revered by dignitaries, from the goddess Artemis, and Montezuma, to Queen Christina of Sweden) and ends with the voluptuous Zebra Hybrid Eggplant. Along the way, we encounter exotic varietals like the Egyptian Walking Onion, the Imperial Star Artichoke (with a connection to Marilyn Monroe), the Painted Serpent Cucumber, and the Tiger Tom Tomato. Jack Staub's delightful book will open up a whole new world to those who simply eat vegetables. He tells us how to cultivate and cook vegetables, and provides a rich source of fascinating factoids for witty dinner table conversation while we ingest them - an invaluable resource for the gourmet grower.

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