Book Review: The Edible Garden by Paul West

River Cottage Australia host Paul West's new book looks at building life around food and community

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The Edible Garden is a new book by Paul West published by Pan Macmillan.


WHY on earth would you bother growing your own food? It's so readily available at a moment's notice from your nearest supermarket. Heck you don't even have to leave your house; a quick tap on the phone and the next thing you know, there's a knock on the door and there it is - you didn't even have to break into a sweat!

So asks celebrity chef and passionate gardener Paul West who then proceeds to explain that growing our own food is more than just growing vegetables - it's about connecting with living things in a meaningful way, knowing exactly what's going into the food we eat, slowing down and being more mindful.

Through growing our own food, whether that be a little or a lot, we benefit in ways far more numerous than simply putting home grown produce on the table. - Paul West

Paul who hosted four seasons of River Cottage Australia (Foxtel and SBS), is the author of The River Cottage Australia Cookbook and has a regular slot on ABC radio and ABC television's Gardening Australia has a new offering on the book shelves - The Edible Garden Cookbook and Growing Guide which looks at building a life around food and community.

Divided into three main sections, Grow, Cook and Community, The Edible Garden explains how even the least green-thumbed person can grow and enjoy their own produce no matter what space you have to do it, from a window ledge to a part or whole garden.

Paul explores growing edible plants in pots, growing sprouts and microgreens, making a wicking bed out of polystyrene tubs, growing vegetables and fruit trees in a backyard or creating a no-dig garden (who wouldn't want that).

He also goes into the basics of composting, keeping chooks and bees.

The book also has an A to Z (asparagus to zucchini) guide to growing our most popular vegies and then of course there's how to cook them, with some fantastic uncomplicated recipes like making hot chilli sauce or pickled dill cucumbers, egg plant curry and charred leeks with yoghurt and capers. There's char-grilled watermelon, flank steak with fresh salsa and fat chips, or strawberry and vanilla semifreddo.

In the section on community Paul writes about joining a community garden or getting together with friends and neighbours for passata day or a pickle making party.

There's also how to brew your own beer and how to build a wood-fired barbecue.

Being part of a community is a fundamental requirement for wellbeing. We humans are social creatures and I don't mean the 'check out how many Instagram followers I have' type of social. I mean the 'face to face' sharing a meal and conversation type. - Paul West

The 303-page book is illustrated with hundreds of photographs and drawings and will undoubtedly become a must-have kitchen/garden resource to be picked up and referred to again and again.

After hosting River Cottage Australia in beautiful Central Tilba, Paul and his family swapped their 20-acre NSW South Coast property for a city life in Thornbury, in Melbourne's inner north turning a suburban backyard plot into a productive patch.

The Edible Garden Cookbook and Growing Guide by Paul West. published by Pan Macmillan Australia $39.99