March 3, 2013

Book offers quick return on your gardening investment

By WILLIAM HAGEMAN/McClatchy Newspapers

Some people don't have room for an expansive garden. Others don't have the time. Lia Leendertz and Mark Diacono have solved both problems with "The Speedy Vegetable Garden" (Timber Press).

Their 208-page book gives readers step-by-step instructions on how to grow and harvest fresh vegetables in the blink of an eye. Well, OK, in days or weeks. In some cases, you can call yourself a success in just hours.

"Lots of people think that growing your own food takes lots of time," Diacono said via email from England, where both authors live. "We realized that some of the tastiest things to eat are also some of the quickest to grow, and wanted to spread the word. We felt sure we could produce a book that would give quick results and a boost of confidence to beginners, but also give old hands a few new ideas."

The quickest return is from Leendertz and Diacono's pumpkin soak. Take a handful of seeds and soak them for one to four hours. Just that short time will soften them and kick-start the germination process. Rinse and add to salads or a sandwich.

"Protein, vitamin and digestible energy levels all surge and metabolic activity increases as it becomes primed for life," Leendertz said, also via email. "But more importantly it turns from nutty and hard to juicy and fresh."

Also quick, easy and tasty are sprouts. Healthy too. The authors devote more than 60 pages to soaks, sprouts and micro-greens, crops that don't need a lot of time to become table-ready. Mustard or red cabbage microgreens take only seven to 10 days; pea sprouts only three days. And these young versions often have more flavor.

The book goes beyond tiny greens and salad fixins'. Relatively quick-to-mature vegetables such as kale (42 days), lettuces (21 to 42 days) and spinach (50 days) are represented.


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