Saturday, 20 October 2012

James Wong's Homegrown Revolution

Has the first page of a book ever irritated you so much that you slammed the book shut? This happened twice when I started reading James Wong’s Homegrown Revolution.  On the third attempt, I got off my high horse and ploughed on and ironically, given my earlier inability to get past the introduction, I was treated to a horticultural page-turner.


Although James Wong gardens in the UK, the book would be of interest to gardeners elsewhere in the world because it is chock-full of information and a truly satisfying read. So many gardening books list rules about the hows, whens and whats of garden tasks, yet there is often little or no explanation as to why we might bother to adhere to these rules. In Homegrown Revolution, explanations abound. Information leaps off the page and, unlike other books on lesser-known edibles where only common names are used (a dangerous ploy when people risk buying and eating the wrong plant or berries as a result), he includes Latin names.


Anyone who has been growing their own food for some time will undoubtedly have tried a few of the crops in James Wong’s Homegrown Revolution. Reading this book has added a handful of new plants to my wish list and happily we are at a time of year when I can make plans to include them. I am also inspired to eat some of the edibles I already grow as ornamentals and I am looking forward to giving Hosta greens and stir-fried wilted daylily flowers a try next year.


James Wong sets out to convert readers to growing more high-yield, expensive or difficult to purchase yet easily grown crops, but the value of the book is the information he includes: the history; the virtues of the crops he selects from his plant trials; recipes for homemade bug spray and fungicide; and advice on polyculture. It is a genuinely interesting read for anyone who is fascinated by plants, irrespective of whether the intention is to eat them.


Oh... and just in case you are wondering what made me so incensed on the first page... 



I believe that there is greater value to growing your own food than James Wong discusses in the introduction. I also believe that in the UK, all children should have the pleasure of putting a potato in a container or in the ground and nurturing it for a few weeks until harvest. The joy of harvesting new potatoes - that magic moment when you tip up a container or scrabble around in the soil looking for your haul of treasure should not be tossed lightly to one side in favour of fiddlehead fern fronds. 


I am hoping to link this review with Roses and Other Gardening Joys http://dreamingofroses.blogspot.com/2012/10/garden-book-reviews-october-2012.htmlNow all I have to do is work out how to join a meme. I don’t even know how to pronounce the word, so if I manage to join, I won’t embarrass myself by telling anyone. Happy reading!

If you are interested in knowing more about James Wong's work, his official site is: www.jameswong.co.uk

33 comments:

  1. My beloved bought me this book as a surprise pressy. I love it and already have quite a few of the plants he suggests in the garden already. I thought it was quite exciting to see all the weird and wonderful plants you can grow - and although I think we still need to grow most of the traditional staples - I will definitely be trying out some of the more out-of-the ordinary plants too. I think we need people like James to take us out of our comfort zone sometimes.

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    1. I absolutely agree, Elaine. I am also impressed by your beloved.... anyone who buys you such excellent surprise pressies AND doesn't want to eat their share of a blackberry and apple crumble is pretty close to perfect!

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  2. Just added you to my bloglist so will be sure to catch your posts.

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  3. I enjoyed James Wong's Grow Your Own Drugs series on tv, but haven't come across this book so I shall look out for it.

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    1. I'll be interested to read what you think of it when you track it down.

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  4. Thanks for the review of James Wong's book. Shall check this book out soon.

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    1. My pleasure - I enjoyed reading and reviewing it. I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I did.

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  5. Thanks so much for joining in, and congratulations on successfully joining in your first meme! I remember how scared I was when I first joined one. It's not as intimidating as it first seems. Thanks for the book review. I would love to grow more unusual edibles, and even try some ornamentals! And I love that he includes the latin names, too. I'm always afraid I'm going to get the wrong plant otherwise!

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    1. Thank you for hosting the meme! I was truly surprised at how easy it was to join - I recommend it to everyone!

      I spend ages checking that I have the right plant if the authors don't include the Latin names - common names are a complete nightmare at the best of times and like you, when it comes to eating my plants, I want to make sure I'm eating the right one!

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    2. PS would be lovely to share link love, and post a link to Holley. As soon as I started reading your post, I thought of her meme (meme is said like same, not ME ME!)
      Just paste her post URL
      http://dreamingofroses.blogspot.com/2012/10/garden-book-reviews-october-2012.html
      into your closing paragraph. You will both benefit in the eyes of the great Google.

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    3. Thank you for the tip, Diana. I'll do it straight away.

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  6. Thanks for the link. Sounds very interesting.

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    1. My pleasure. I think it is truly interesting.

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  7. Thanks for such an interesting review and the link. Living in Germany I haven't heard of James Wong before, but his website is very extensive and I will probably spend all evening looking through it now! Will take a look at the book too. And I need the botanical names - gardening in English and German can get confusing at times! Fabulous post! :D

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    1. Thank you! I find his website very interesting too. I like the way that he trials the crops in his garden, with no expensive greenhouses/heated propagators etc.

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  8. Now I have to read the book just to find out what made you so mad! Thanks for the review.

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    1. Welcome.... and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

      I'd be interested to see it the same thing makes you mad!

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  9. I should grow more veggies but I just love flowers more. But when my kids were very little I grew a large-ish vegetable garden and included things that would be fun for them to grow. My son loved pulling up onions and beets while my toddler daughter ran around the yard squirting cherry tomatoes on everyone. They were both mesmerized by the pumpkins. :o) I haven't seen this book here (US) but that might be because I wasn't looking. Now I'm curious about it!

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    1. It is worth trying to get hold of a copy - if only because there are some beautiful edibles included, so you might just be able to combine your desire to grow more veggies with your love of flowers.

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  10. Great book review! Your comments about the meme made me smile as I was in the same boat a couple of months ago... I had to refer to wikipedia and just hope I wouldn't make a fool of myself. In the end it was good fun and I learnt lots from experienced Meme-ers!!

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    1. Thank you! I still have no idea how to pronounce it, but I have decided to take the same approach as I take with tricky plant names.... confidence... I just have to work out which of the five possibilities of meme pronunciation I like best!



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  11. Hello, and thank you for stopping by my blog and joining. I`ll look forward to digging deeper into your neat looking blog. Good Luck in Virginia. How beautiful it is!

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    1. Welcome... and thank you Randy, for taking the time to visit my blog and leave a comment. I am in Norfolk UK, which is also very beautiful (although a bit foggy today)

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  12. Thanks for hopping over to my site from Flighty's Plot, and leaving such a kind comment. Looks like you have a very busy and fulfilling lifestyle. I'll enjoy checking out more of your postings :)

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    1. Thank you, Glo - I really enjoyed your poem about Flighty! Very clever!

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  13. I haven't read his book, but I agree that day lilies are delicious, both raw and stir fried. Violets are also very good. I'm surprised they are not grown as a crop and sold in stores. I have also heard that kudzu, that monster vine that is swallowing the countryside in my part of the world, is also edible. I haven't had the nerve to try that yet, but it is comforting to know that in case of severe economic disaster, we have a ready crop growing in the valley behind our house.

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    1. How interesting! I love any veg that is delicious raw as I do enjoy eating on the hoof. Is there a book on eating your weeds? I have a glut of them.

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  14. I haven't read his book, but I agree that day lilies are delicious, both raw and stir fried. Violets are also very good. I'm surprised they are not grown as a crop and sold in stores. I have also heard that kudzu, that monster vine that is swallowing the countryside in my part of the world, is also edible. I haven't had the nerve to try that yet, but it is comforting to know that in case of severe economic disaster, we have a ready crop growing in the valley behind our house.

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  15. hi GS, Welcome to the meme, this one's a bit like a book club. I agree with what you said about how children should experience growing food and that photo is wonderfully expressive. I particularly like the idea of eating ornamentals. My daughter in law who grew up in a refugee camp has taught me that anything that grows that is not poisonous is worth considering eating. Unfortunately I don't have hostas or daylilies in my garden!

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    1. Thank you Catmint! Your daughter-in-law's philosophy is very wise - it has really made me think.

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  16. You had me very curious why you were infuriated after you finally got into reading the book. I never ate a day lily but may try after reading here.

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    1. Me too! I am planning on eating some next summer.

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