Book Review: A Taste of the Unexpected


For the past week and a half I’ve had my head buried inside the book ‘A Taste of the Unexpected‘ by Marc Diacono, published by Quadrille Books.  The title itself invites you into the book to discover what lies within but the cover also gives you a clue – “How to grow your own remarkable fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs, spices and flowers”.

Front Cover - A Taste of the Unexpected, Marco Diacono, Quadrille Books

A Taste of the Unexpected, Marco Diacono, Quadrille Books

I’ve previously tried my hand at the usual tried and tested crops of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, herbs, etc. and I’m quite happy with the results.  I have to say, however, that if I hadn’t opened this book and started reading I would probably continue to blindly plant the same old things for the rest of my life.  This book opens up new boundaries, it erodes the self-imposed limits that rule how we think about our kitchen gardens and introduces us to species that, I for one, would never have previously considered attempting.

“Life is too short to grow unremarkable food” 

You can almost feel Marco’s enthusiasm emanating from each page as he talks about such exotic delights as Gojiberries and Szechuan Peppers.   One of my own personal delights was the section on forced Rhubarb, my parents always had some growing around the base of a silver birch when I was a child, and it never failed to provide.  Marco has provided the inspiration to try my hand at that and many other crops.

“If you’re one of those unfortunates with a reputation for plants dying on you ….. this is the plant for you” 

Marco’s infectious enthusiasm is equally matched  by the shared wealth of his experience, there is an abundance of advice provided for each crop.  Each one is given an introduction, he then discusses varieties, growing and harvesting.  You can clearly tell that he loves his plants but most importantly, from my perspective as a foodie, he loves eating them just as much.  Each plant has a section about eating it, accompanied by couple of mouth-watering recipes.  The advice ranges from how best to prepare it through to uses in the kitchen.

Tempting recipes include Oca Saag Aloo, Stir Fried Pork with Kai Lun and Autumn Olive Jam (yes, that’s right, from olives grown in your garden right here in the UK).

This book was a real eye opener for me, we have successful vineyards in the UK so I’m pretty sure I can grow and eat my own Japanese Wineberries and Egyptian Walking Onions thanks to this book.  Marco has shared his knowledge and experience of how to do just that and more.  In a way I think Hugh Fearnley-Whittingley hit the nail on the head when he says…

“And I think it’s not too impertinent to suggest that I hope it gets grubby with muddy fingerprints, and smeared and splattered with butter and beetroot.” 

This is one book I would happily take into the potting shed, and be equally happy with it propped up next to my chopping board.

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One Response to Book Review: A Taste of the Unexpected

  1. “Life is too short to grow unremarkable food” What a great quote! I love it. I’ll have to use this one. Or make up my own—Life is too short to eat unremarkable food.

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