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Book Review - Grow, Cook, Inspire: Growing and cooking for a healthier mind and planet by Helen Cross

Grow, Cook, Inspire - Cover of Book
Grow, Cook, Inspire - Cover of Book

Author: Helen Cross

Language: English

Subject: Gardening, Environment and Food with a specific approach to supporting the teaching of this to children.

Type: Softback

RRP: UK £20.00

Pages: 184 inc, contents and index. Full colour, matt.

Publisher: Grow, Cook, Inspire

Publication Date: 2023

ISBN: 978-1399950800

This review is long overdue. I promised Helen, when I saw her at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2023 that it would be complete within days. Over 200 days as it transpires. Regardless, better late than never.

Any book that quotes my favourite Gertrude Jekyll quote in the beginning has started well as far as I am concerned.

"The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies, but grows to the enduring happiness that the love of gardening gives"

Gertrude Jekyll

A few comments on the visuals of the book before the content. I like the large format a lot. Always good for working with more than one child and makes for an uncluttered read. Matt paper pages appeal to me here too. The colours of the beautiful photographs still stand out very well, but the ink line drawings gain the appearance of block print, which make some pages handsome enough to cut out and frame (if that were not a terrible thing to do to a good book).

Refreshingly, the book Foreword by Dr James Morton (himself an author) is written, not from the perspective of an industry expert or otherwise famous name in Horticulture or gardening, but from a keen and newly captivated amateur, who happens to be a neighbour of the author. I like this. Its honest and it is truthful in spirit and reality. No simpering praise from a celebrity, otherwise unknown to the author, just genuine and endearing honesty.

Grow, Cook, Inspire
Grow, Cook, Inspire - Page

The honesty continues from the author herself in the Introduction, where personal experience of the pandemic and the value of outdoor space is discussed. On top of this Helen discusses mental health, including, rather bravely, her own. It discusses the value of gardening to our environment and to our children to look to the future. These are wise words and set a scene for a book that will encourage everyone to have a go at growing plants and making gardens of any size, to produce food for us and wildlife, emotional well-being and good health and help our environment in any little way we can.

A new term (for me at least) appears and may well have been coined in the first short chapter, 'Vitamin G', with the G standing for Green, but could just as easily be Gardening, or Growing. A discussion on mental health and well-being, with a focus gardening and being in green space as a potential alternative to prescribed antidepressants. Again, this is an honest and refreshing, personally observed and experienced dialog. Again, it is both good to read, being well-written, but also comforting as we all experience, to a greater or lesser degree the same anxieties and mental health concerns and to read a perspective on that, laid bare and exposed is disarming. It isn't looking for sympathy and it isn't chasing readers, it is something we can connect to. We can connect with Helen and understand her motivation to write and the value of what she is doing for herself as well as for the others reading. I found it quite emotional to read and I think that being challenged with the personal experience in the writing can only be a good thing.

Helen is clear that she isn't a trained Horticulturist, but she is a keen amateur gardener and she clearly looks holistically at both the value and use of outdoor space. This is something, that is often missed by professionals in my experience. It becomes all too easy to take for granted the value of a garden or a landscape that you engage with constantly, but for those people who didn't have one during the pandemic, I can imagine it was so much harder. For those people who do not or can not connect with nature regularly it must be very tough. A butterfly on a flower is a moment that we should all be able to observe and glory in.

Grow, Cook, Inspire
Grow, Cook, Inspire - page

This fantastic book then gives the reader ideas on little, manageable projects to undertake with children, grandparent and everyone in between to grow and create, to cook and enjoy. It demonstrates how to make various things for a garden using recycled and upcycled resources. The text and brilliant illustrations guide the reader through these projects and through how to grow various (primarily edible) plants in a way that anyone can follow. It is paired back, jargon-free and refreshingly light-hearted in style. I won't discuss the projects as you should buy this book to see for yourself, but there is a wealth of subject area covered with a focus on growing things to eat and drink and acknowledging that no previous experience or resource is necessary. Among many other subjects the book discusses, Bees and Honey, Cordials and Cakes, Herbs, Vegetables, Fruits, Foraging, Soil and a great deal more. Fun facts and recipes feature throughout. All are for everyone and most are photographed or illustrated to make them even easier to follow.

Never an unnecessary word throughout, the text is clear and easy to follow. This is a book of joy! A celebration of Helen's experience, shared honestly and rather beautifully for everyone to benefit from. It should be in every primary school classroom and in the homes of families with children who want to engage with their garden, but don't know how. It is incredibly rare for me to be emotionally impacted by reading a book on gardening, but this repeatedly did it for me and I'm glad it did!

Interested? You can buy this book here from Amazon.

Please note, the links to Amazon are paid affiliate link. If you purchase the book from Amazon, using this link I will receive a small payment from them. It doesn't cost you anything and the book is priced as per the Amazon price. Thanks

Please note, Images of the book are my own with permission from the author/publisher. As with all images on this site, they are not for reproduction or use without written permission. Permissions can be sought from emailing though images of materials copywritten by another party will not be given.

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