Monday, April 7, 2014

Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs: A Review

The latest book by Emma Cooper, Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs (Smashwords, May, 2014), combines two of her favorite topics: gardening and unusual edibles. Cooper, author of four unique gardening books – The Allotment Pocket Bible (Crimson Publishing, 2011), The Alternative Kitchen Garden (Permanent Publications, 2009), Growing Vegetables is Fun! (Dennis Publishing, 2008), and the audiobook The Peat Free Diet (Emma Cooper, 2012) – is an established author and expert in her field. The recent addition of a Master of Science in Ethnobotany deepens what she is able to share on her website and helped spur Jade Pearls into existence.

Cooper states in her introduction that Jade Pearls is meant to inform and inspire gardeners everywhere to try growing unusual edibles. Many are perennials, which makes them easy to incorporate into forest gardens, regular landscape schemes, or anywhere a gardener might want to have a reliable feature. She begins with a short history of global plant movement (from Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt up to modern day plant research in space) that sets the stage for how the unusual edibles later profiled made their way to the gardeners she introduces in subsequent chapters. Even if one is not a farmer like me, the stories are fascinating.

Likewise, the growers she introduces – a mix of amateur and professional (including yours truly) – are as captivating. Some, like me, grow for fun and by accident (plants given as gifts or normal for the new place we find ourselves living) while others (like Owen Smith at Radix Root Crops) research how to grow these plants out of concern for a changing climate or as a solution to other environmental worries. Regardless, there is plenty to learn and inspire. Cooper provides plenty of links to websites, books, and articles making her Jade Pearls an ideal springboard for searching out more information on how to grow some of these lovelies on your own.

Like any good gardening book should, Jade Pearls had me jotting down additions to the list of things I want to read (Stephen Barstow's Around the World in 80 Plants springs to mind) and the list of plants I want to grow (mung beans and the Japanese wine berry) this year or next. It also has me thinking more deeply about perennial edibles native to Japan that could be incorporated into my new garden here in Kanagawa. One minor drawback was the lack of photos (Cooper says she prefers to avoid photos as it forces readers to do some of their own homework. Read more of her thoughts on that next week when she visits as part of her virtual book tour.) It is, though, by no means a deal breaker. Jade Pearls is a very welcome addition to my library and even though it's in electronic form, I expect it soon to be well-thumbed.

by Emma Cooper
Available for preview and pre-order at Smashwords
Officially available on May 1st

Look for an extended interview with Emma next week along with a reading as part of her virtual book tour. Check out the whole calendar for even more fun!


Emma said...

Thank you so much for posting a review :) I'm looking forward to stopping by soon as part of my virtual book tour!

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

You're most welcome, Emma! Thanks for such an engaging and informative read.