Book Review: Jere Gettle’s The Heirloom Life Gardener

VEGETABLE GARDENERS DON’T COMPREHEND THE TRUE VALUE OF SEEDS. That’s because it’s way too easy to get them. For a few bucks today you can hop in the car and pick up a package at Walmart. Hell, you can even get organic seeds at Walmart.

But our predecessors understood how really valuable seeds are. Consider the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. When the fairytale was created, people understood the power of seeds. Back then, having the right seeds for the right environment could be the difference between living the good life and famine. Whole civilizations depended on their seeds.

The really cool thing about seeds is that through “unnatural” selection each generation can become better and more adapted to your specific environment. A seeds genetic memory allows gardeners and farmers to improve their crops’ taste, reduce the time to ripening, the amount of water or even how much fertility is needed. As a result, a beanstalk that grows to the clouds is only a small stretch of the imagination. Seeds can truly be magical. But in some parts of the world we’ve forgotten how magical they can be.

A lifelong love of seeds

The Heirloom Life Gardener* co-author Jere Gettle has made it his life’s work to remind us of the magic of seeds. Since his earliest days, Gettle has had a deep passion for growing food and the seeds that have made his crops possible. As a successful seed company entrepreneur, you could consider him a “poster child” for the idea that if you chose to make a living from what you love, success will follow.The Heirloom Life Gardner

He and his wife Emilee Gettle started the heirloom seed company Baker Creek. Their new book The Heirloom Life Gardener teaches us how to grow truly amazing foods that transcend the standard fare found in our neighbors’ plots.

Jere, a homesteader before the homesteading movement became popular, has traveled the world searching for seeds from the most unique and tasty fruit and vegetable varieties. In this guide to growing heirloom vegetables, he introduces readers to the treasure trove of information built up over his lifetime love affair with seeds and gardening.

Growing, nurturing and cooking

Starting alphabetically with amaranth and ending with watermelon, the Gettles cover growing, nurturing and cooking an extraordinary list of varieties. Some are so different from their grocery store counterparts that the reader will surely feel they came from outer space. What I really found interesting was the little bits of history that the authors interjected about certain fruits and vegetables and the directions for saving seeds.

Clearly the Gettles have transferred their true love of growing flavorful, exotic and beautiful fruits and vegetables into this guide. As you might expect from purveyors of open pollinated seeds, the Gettles make no effort to hide their disdain of genetically engineered varieties, even pointing out potentially harmful health effects.

One of my few criticisms about this book is the repetitiveness in places of the section called the A to Z growing guide. Most plants benefit from some basic growing practices and the authors seem to point this out over and over. An area where I respectfully disagree with the Gettles is their suggestion to use railroad ties as the walls for raised beds. I believe that most ties, if not all, are treated with harmful substances to stop them from breaking down over time. As a result. they can leech unhealthy materials into the soil.

Still, both master gardeners and novices (and everyone in between) will enjoy The Heirloom Life Gardener. If you plan to read it, let us know by commenting below.

Related articles you might enjoy:

1. Book Review: Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener
2. Book Review: Felder Rushing’s Slow Gardening
3. Book Review: The Apple Grower

*If you purchase using this link, I make a small amount of money that helps me continue to keep writing this blog.

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Jere Gettle’s The Heirloom Life Gardener”

  1. August 17, 2011 at 3:18 am #

    I guess those railway ties you mention are sim. to our railway sleepers which used to be very pop here in UK for raised beds(second hand and re-claimed) however they are not allowed to be sold to public now because of the preservatives which leak out into the soil.

    • August 17, 2011 at 7:14 am #

      Alberta — I’ve never hear the term railway sleepers before, but it sounds as if you have the same problem in the UK. It’s tempting to use ties for raised beds. They are easy to come by and convenient in size. It’s too bad the chemicals can cause problems.

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