12 cookbooks that will help make your locavore aspirations come true
As the owner of a five-acre homestead and a four-season market garden, I am an avid cookbook collector. Food — growing, preparing and preserving it — are what life is all about at Stony Ridge Farm!
Winters on the homestead are dedicated to planning and promoting our 50-member farm-share program. This includes a lot of dreaming, reading and seed purchases. This year, we are focusing on making sure our members get the most out of their weekly box of freshly harvested produce by suggesting a dozen books to help them know their veggies better and prepare them for the best flavor and highest preserved nutritional content.
So, here’s a list of cookbooks that tell the story of local, seasonal ingredients while offering several recipes for either meal preparation or food preservation projects. After you review the list, please use the comments section below to share some of your favorite resources!
1. Chez Panisse Vegetables
by Alice Waters
This is one of the many cookbooks to be inspired by Chez Panisse, the Berkeley, California, restaurant that created the farm-to-table movement in the United States. The cookbook offers a take on meal prep as an act of artistic expression and the center of family and community. What I love most about these recipes is their minimalist approach to getting the most out of the natural flavor of the vegetable.
2. Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
Central to the sustainable lifestyle is food security, and the best way to ensure easy access to nutritious food is to preserve summer’s bounty for winter meals. Canning is easy but requires strict attention to detail to ensure the food can be stored safely. We recommend this Ball canning resource because all the recipes are tested, and we love their canning jars and supplies. The Ball website, Fresh Preserving, offers resources for both the novice and experienced home canner.
3. Eating Local, by Janet Fletcher, Alice Waters, Sara Remington
Described as “the cookbook inspired by American farmers,” Eating Local is created just from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or farm-share members. Visitors to this site know that’s what Stony Ridge Farm is all about, offering weekly shares of our harvest to members of the farm. It's a model of food distribution that has been around for decades but seems to be coming into its own. The cookbook will help you better meet your local eating goals and understand what motivates small farmers across the country to work hard in bringing you fresh food.
4. The Heart of the Plate
by Mollie Katzen
The Heart of the Plate offers “vegetarian recipes for a new generation.” Katzen, author-illustrator of the much loved Moosewood Cookbook, offers a new brand of vegetarian recipes that layers attention to flavor profiles with instructions that include thoughts on color and texture for the plate. This book is so beautiful and well written it deserves a place on your nightstand. Bedtime reading sure to bring pleasant dreams to every home cook!
5. Hunt, Gather, Cook
by Hank Shaw
Many farmers-market shoppers and farm-share members will notice the increase in availability of locally foraged products such as ramps, morel mushrooms, fiddleheads and the like. Hank Shaw’s love of foraged and wild foods is contagious, and any attempt at seasonal eating wouldn’t be complete without it. Hunt, Gather, Cook is the beyond-organic cookbook for the locavore!
6. The Kitchen Ecosystem
by Eugenia Bone
Hate food waste? The Kitchen Ecosystem is the book for you. It breaks down the vegetables and pantry items into recipes that use every bit of the product and sees the kitchen as a closed-system environment in and of itself. A great resource for homes where composting is not an option.
7. Nourishing Traditions
by Sally Fallon
I have not come across a cookbook that makes me consider the source of my ingredients and the best way to preserve their nutrition more than Nourishing Traditions. Fallon has created a resource that counters the dominant food narrative offered by pop nutritionists and diet gurus. The book is well researched, easy to read and, more important, easy to use.
8. Wild Fermentation
by Sandor Ellix Katz
This smaller version of the fermentation tome The Art of Fermentation, also by Katz, is practical and novice friendly. Fermentation is the process of preserving food with salt, thus creating a lacto-fermentation environment that preserves flavor and nutrition with less risk than traditional canning. Start with kraut, and you’ll never let "too much produce" be a problem again!
These are my go-to books because they offer a useful combination of well-tested recipes and a deep love of the art of using fresh, seasonal produce to feed oneself, family and friends.
Want to go deeper? Then add these to your collection...
9. The Art of Fermentation
by Sandor Ellix Katz
If Wild Fermentation whet your appetite and you just can’t get enough ferments in your life, then go the next step up with this exhaustive resource on fermentation. It won the 2013 James Beard Award and has changed the national conversation on food preservation. Don’t let its size (498 pages) intimidate you! It’s an easy enough read and a detailed instruction manual on fermentation practices from cultures around the world.
10. The Best Food Writing Series
by Holly Hughes
If you're addicted to food entertainment — movies, literature, essays and cookbooks — like I am, you will love any book in this series. Most of the books on this list are in my kitchen library in hardback editions, but this series resides on my Kindle. Each year I could say of the collection of essays, “I laughed, I cried, I called my senator about local food policy.” Any year’s collection is a prized possession and great for the times of year when you don’t have much room for reading. The essay collections begin in 2001 and have been an annual release ever since.
11. Vegetable Literacy
by Deborah Madison
Easily the most beautiful cookbook of my collection, this richly photographed and poetically written book about the families of vegetables, their history and use reveals Madison’s love of food, farm markets and gardening. I read and reread Vegetable Literacy with each planting and vegetable harvest as a way to more deeply connect to the 10,000-year history of my profession. Don’t let that intimidate you. Its stories and recipes are easily accessible to even the farmers-market novice!
12. Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry
by Cathy Barrow
This book offers seasonally organized food-preservation recipes accompanied by ways to use the preserved products. The best part is Barrow has useful projects for the winter months, including making your own bacon! Very practical, indeed.
Hope this helps you get more and more from your weekly shares. Again, please use the comments section below to add your favorites to the list.