Thursday, August 16, 2012

American Grown: A Book Review

I've been researching popular Christian blogs at work and noticed that many Christian bloggers write book reviews on their blogs. I thought that'd be a fun thing to do on this blog occasionally. I know many of you love to read and are always looking for good book recommendations. I'd love for you to use the comments section here to recommend your own books or chime in on my review if you've read the book.
This will also help me be accountable to reading more often and blogging more frequently. A win-win situation, right? :o)

I appreciated American Grown right off the bat for two reasons. 1) It celebrates the history of American gardens from the extensive gardens at Thomas Jefferson's estate, Monticello, to the Victory Gardens of WWII. 2) The book embraces subjects that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike can support because the book is fundamentally about the joys of gardening, eating fresh, local food and the benefits of an active lifestyle.

The book is divided into four main sections: spring, summer, fall and winter. The primary narrative centers on the evolution of Michelle Obama's White House Garden over the past several years. My favorite part of this book was the way the garden involved people and celebrated tradition and diversity. Elementary school kids planted. White House staff tended the garden. Visiting dignataries received honey from the White House beehives and pickled vegetables from the garden. Native Americans taught the "three sisters planting" (planting corn, beans, and winter squash in the same bed). The plants that grow in the garden celebrate culinary traditions from around the country and world. Etc.

Gardens have a great knack for building healthy communities. Besides using the White House garden as an example of this, Michelle highlights community and school gardens that are bringing new life to derelict land, introducing kids to homegrown food, and drawing communities together.  

I also love that a portion of food from the White House garden goes to a local D.C. nonprofit called Miriam's Kitchen that serves the homeless. Michelle writes "[Miriam's Kitchen's] philosophy is that if someone comes and will only get one meal, it should be the very best meal they can have" (132). I love the principle behind that...when someone is in need, we give them the very best we have.

There's a lot more to like about this book, but I'll leave it you to read and discover. It's not an explicitly Christian book, but there is much to enjoy from a Christian perspective, both in affirming the goodness of creation and its higher purpose in helping people enjoy God's good gifts. And now, in the spirit of gardening, here are some pictures from my garden! I was going to show you my first Silvery Fir Tree tomato, but I ate it before I could take the picture. Perhaps that's how it should be. :o)

My first heirloom Bennings Green Tint Scallop summer squash. I grew it from a seed I got from my friend Megan. Here's the description from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed website: "Colorful light green scalloped shaped fruit, tender and good quality; excellent yields, easy to grow. We have grown this variety for many years; an old favorite."

A zinnia I grew from birthday seeds sent to me by my friend Lydia.

A street view of my garden at Dottie's house with the garden sign I bought at the Gresham Farmer's Market two summers ago. The squash is a Long Cheese Squash, supposed to be extra good for pies!

I will post more garden pictures later. I'm proud of my garden this year and thank God that it's actually produced!

Question to ponder from American Grown by Michelle Obama: Have you experienced community around a garden? What did it look like?

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