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An Interview with Emma Cooper

It is my great pleasure to host Emma Cooper, author of Jade Pearls andAlien Eyeballs, as part of her virtual book tour. Emma graciously sat down with me to answer a few questions about her book, the plants she loves, and writing. And don't forget to listen to the reading at the end! It's really wonderful. Any questions for Emma? Send them along in the comments and I'll share them with her. And on Wednesday, Emma will stop by again to continue our conversation. Don't miss it! - JB

Emma Cooper, ready for action!
What inspired you to write this guidebook? You touch on it in the introduction, of course, but I'd love to hear a bit more about it.

I first started thinking about writing this book in the middle of 2010, and for very personal reasons it was put on hold several times. To be honest, I can no longer remember the first spark of inspiration that led me to develop the concept, but I was (and still am) interested in why people choose to grow unusual edibles. I’d met a lot of interesting people online who were doing just that, and I thought they would have some interesting stories to share.

What were the first plants you ever grew? Not unusual edibles, but the very first plants you grew that inspired you to keep gardening. 

I grew coriander and leaf beet, mint and garlic, potatoes in pots, lettuce and beetroot and some other herbs. I think it was probably the leaf beet that inspired me to keep gardening. It was a plant I hadn’t known about before, that was very easy to grow, and which could easily be incorporated into the type of meals we were eating at that time.

What was the first unusual edible you grew? How did you find it or how did it find you?

Achocha, from the Heritage Seed Library (HSL). This was way back in 2005, and it’s all a little hazy, but I’d joined up with the HDRA (now Garden Organic) to learn more about organic gardening, and found out about their HSL. I blogged at the time that achocha was my ‘top choice’, so I was obviously thrilled to find something unusual to grow. I continue to be an HSL member; in the intervening years I have bemoaned the lack of unusual edibles in their catalogues, but they now offer a lot more that they have collected via the Sowing New Seeds project.

What's the most interesting thing you've learned from growing unusual edibles? 

I find it fascinating that the knowledge regarding our food plants is so comparmentalised, and buried in people’s heads rather than being easily accessible. For example, while I was checking through the manuscript for publication, I was talking to Owen Smith about strawberry spinach, and he told me that you can eat the roots. Which is not surprising, as they are related to beetroot, but it wasn’t something I had come across before. I sent him some seeds, so hopefully he will do some experiments this year and we can all read about them on his blog.

Here Emma does a short reading from Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs to intrigue and inspire! 

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