Vibrant Cookbooks Every Gardener Should Own

vegetable garden recipe

When I arrived in San Francisco after college for my first experience living truly on my own I had no idea how to cook anything besides pasta. In fact, I have no memory of what I ate during my four years of college. Could I really have eaten pasta every night of the week?

So imagine my surprise when my new roommate, Kathryn, made hummus from scratch and my other roommate, Jenny, used the Moosewood Cookbook to create an Indonesian dish called Gado Gado. What??!! How did these people know how to do this? Cooking was a complete and utter mystery to me.

Over the next several years, I slowly experimented with recipes scribbled down by friends. I shyly shopped at the farmers market, trying to identify all of the strange vegetables I’d never seen before. I even bought my first cookbook, the original Moosewood with the brown cover, because one of my friends would often make delicious dinners from it. I was gradually unraveling the mystery that was cooking.

Cooking

That learning curve was immediately put into fast forward when I moved from San Francisco to a farm in rural Missouri for a gardening internship. Upon arrival, I discovered stress-inducing facts such as —

#1: everyone on the farm ate together in a cooperative kitchen

#2: only vegan dishes were acceptable

#3: there was a cooking rotation which I would be quickly included in, even though I had no idea how to cook

#4: to top it all off, everything had to be made from scratch and in the summer we cooked for up to 40 people on an outdoor wood-fired stove

Yikes!

Luckily, if you were a new cook you got paired with a more experienced person who was the head cook for your shift. Because of this rotation, I cooked with someone new every week which offered a crash course in many different styles, dishes, and kitchen techniques. I took a lot of direction that summer, learning how to make biscuits, buns and pizza dough from scratch, concoct simple salad dressings, and I figured out how to identify vegetables I had never seen, let alone eaten before.

By that first winter, I was initiated into the ranks of head cooks. That meant I would cook by myself in the slow winter months and be paired with new cooks once the busy summer season began the following year.

During my second year as a cook at the farm, I started to scour the piles of cookbooks for new recipes and moved into more complicated terrain like making soymilk and tofu from soybeans, creating vegan desserts, and teaching other interns the ropes of cooking for a crowd.

garden fresh recipe with kale

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I always tell people that living at that farm for a year and a half was like attending a very intense school where you learned things that would affect your life for many years into the future. Learning to cook was definitely one of those things. I can look at the way I cook today and the very important role food plays in my life and see the thin thread that connects all the way back to my days in Missouri.

I fell in love with food while living there. Not only was I learning how to cook for myself and others, but it’s also where my love of gardening took root and started to grow into the passion it is today.

Eighteen years later, I can confidently write that I’m a great cook. Cooking and food are now woven into the fabric of my life in such a way that it seems they have always been here. It’s so easy to take it all for granted, until I close my eyes and imagine myself back in front of the woodstove in the outdoor kitchen, nervously trying to figure out the best way to chop kohlrabi. I’ve come so far, and for that, I’m grateful.

Now, let’s rewind back to when I arrived in San Francisco, a huge foodie town. I owned no cookbooks and had likely never opened a cookbook in my life.

Now, I own a very small selection of curated cookbooks by my favorite authors and food bloggers. Many of them are stained with food, most of them I page through every few weeks for dinner ideas, and all of them feature some of my favorite recipes in the whole world.

Here are my favorite vegetable cookbooks that I think every gardener should have on her bookshelf.

stack of cookbooks for vegetable lovers

Colorful & Delicious Vegetable Cookbooks for Gardeners

Click on the book cover photos to go directly to the Amazon listing.

Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen

This is it! The first cookbook I ever purchased. I was in a bookstore in Sausalito, across the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco. I still have this book in my kitchen cupboard. Click on the photo for more info.

 

 

 

vegetable cookbooks

Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites, by the Moosewood Collective

One of my dear roommates from that first year in San Francisco would always cook from this book. I would be her assistant and try to learn at her elbow. Of course, this is the second cookbook I purchased. We even ate at the Moosewood Restaurant when we visited Ithaca, New York. Click on the photo for more info.

 

 

 

The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest, by Mollie Katzen

Mollie Katzen was originally a part of the Moosewood Collective but then started writing cookbooks on her own. She came to Madison to speak at a festival one year and we stood in line to get this book autographed by her. Swoon! Click on the photo for more info.

 

 

 

From Asparagus to Zucchini, by FairShare CSA Coalition

This fun resource was produced by a non-profit in Madison that connects people to local CSAs. I still cook the Roasted Broccoli recipe several times a month in fall and winter. Click on the photo for more info.

 

 

 

The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl and Spoon, by Sara Forte and Hugh Forte

In the intro to this book, the author tells the story of someone asking her what kind of food she specializes in and her husband replies, “Bowl foods.” That’s me! Many nights for dinner we have some kind of grain, vegetables, and a sauce…served in a bowl. This cookbook is right up your alley if that’s how you like to cook and eat. Click on the photo for more info.

 

 

 

 

Love Real Food, by Kathryne Taylor

If you like simple, straightforward, and fresh vegetarian recipes, this book is for you! Our meals regularly feature lots of favorite recipes from Kate’s food blog, and her book is full of them, too. Click on the photo for more info.

 

 

 

 

Naturally Nourished, by Sarah Britton

The author of this book also has a food blog called My New Roots. Her dishes can be on the complicated side sometimes, but this book was her effort to create recipes with ingredients commonly found at any grocery store. She’s an amazing food photographer so the photos of the dishes are vibrant and beautiful. Click on the photo for more info.

 

 

 

Simple Green Smoothies, by Jen Hansard & Jadah Sellner

I often have a smoothie for breakfast and a while ago I was stuck in a smoothie rut. This book helped me expand my recipes and ingredients. I like how every smoothie includes some kind of green like spinach and kale. Click on the photo for more info.

 

 

 

The Love and Lemons Cookbook, by Jeanine Donofrio

The Love and Lemons blog is my new favorite source for recipes. The author lives in Chicago now, and she often cooks with farmers market produce. That means we’re on the same schedule, so the recipes she’s posting feature vegetables I have in my fridge. Click on the photo for more info.

 

 

 

The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, by Alissa Sergensten & Tom Malterre

This is a great selection if you or someone you love has food sensitivities. The recipes are gluten, dairy, soy, and egg free. I’ve recently discovered I’m sensitive to several foods, so I’ve loved having this as a source of new recipes. Click on the photo for more info.

 

 

 

Over the years I’ve checked a lot of cookbooks out of the library! These are the few I loved so much I purchased them for myself. I hope you use this list to find some new inspiration for your cooking routine, as well as some awesome new recipes that make it into your regular rotation.

You can find all of these books in one place (plus a few bonus titles!) in my Amazon shop here.

If you’ve got books on the brain as I do, check out my top recommended books of the year and favorite organic gardening books.

 

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