To Boldly Grow: Thinking outside the (lunch) box

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Image courtesy of Putnam
Image courtesy of Putnam

© 2022 Putnam
272 pages

Shortly after author Tamar Haspel married her husband, Kevin, he told her he wanted to plant a garden on the roof of their Manhattan apartment building. For weeks, they schlepped dirt and colorful containers skyward, and that summer, they had the best tomatoes she had ever tasted.

Consequently, when they bought their house and two acres on Cape Cod some time later, they both knew that gardening was a for-sure. In fact, Haspel suggested, why not try to eat "firsthand food" — dinner they didn't buy from a store — every day for an entire year?

Immediately, there was a learning curve: they had to know what kind of soil they had in order to know what they could grow. Neighbors helped with that information, and they taught Haspel about cold frames, which are often necessary in New England gardens. This satisfied her for a while until she learned about perennial vegetables, which weren't necessarily satisfying. The couple considered going organic, but the bugs won that battle, until chickens arrived at the tiny farm. Eggs were perfect firsthand food; later, the chickens would be, too, but not until after a heartbreaking trial-and-error with fencing.

Haspel learned to trust ice, love fishing, and embrace the joys of "fishing it forward." The couple taught themselves to catch lobster, grow mushrooms with old logs, make their own sea salt, and forage in nearby areas with high-level awareness of what was not safely edible. They bought some turkeys and began hunting venison.

And then they built their own outdoor oven, because "there is... a deep-seated satisfaction in taking food we harvested, cooking it in an oven we built, and feeding it to people we love."

You can absolutely think of To Boldly Grow as a book filled with adventure. Undertaking new endeavors, after all, is not always for the faint of heart — even when they are as quiet as digging and fishing.

Consider it, too, as lighthearted reading: Haspel has a great sense of humor mixed with her inner Indiana Jones-in-the-garden, and as a result, there's a lot of good-natured self-ribbing and an appealing open-mindedness to new things.

But that's not all. There's seriousness in this book, and a number of pages full of helpful advice. For total novices who are unsure about raising their own vittles, or for readers who never thought they could grocery shop a few feet from their back deck, that's very tantalizing information.

Whether your tomatoes are starting to bloom, or there are seedlings waiting patiently inside, this is a fun way to pass the time before harvesting it all. Find To Boldly Grow and put something different on your plate.