It’s almost July. We are in the thick of Summer and the farmer’s markets are finally bursting with produce. To help inspire you as you cook, I’ve put together this list of my favorite books on seasonal/vegetable/market-to-table cooking from the Kirschner Collection. Here they are in chronological order:
By the Culinary Arts Institute, 1940
This book gives basic instructions on cooking a range of vegetables (including kale, which I wouldn’t have expected given the date), and then riffs on various preparations and seasonings. Spoiler alert: the preparation for most vegetables is boiling them (boo! hiss!), but the preparations are interesting and could inspire some fantastic updated recipes. Bonus: This book begins with a section on carving flowers out of vegetables to use as a garnish.
By Sybil Henderson, 1967
A small, alphabetical guide to preparing what was considered odd in 1967 (yes, kale is in there.) While many of the vegetables in here are much more common now (e.g. okra, snow peas, and ginger), it’s still handy if you find yourself with a bounty of salsify or chayote and don’t know where to start.
By Century 21 Heritage Homes of Wilmar, Ltd., 1979
I don’t know who prepared this promotional cookbook for Century 21, but they clearly took their gardening seriously. It includes a very thorough section on handling produce which ends with “Try to use every part of the plant to nurish [sic] man, beat or soil. We need to support the eco-system.” There are lots of community cookbook jello/mushroom soup staples in here, but it’s also full of little gems like candied mint leaves and stuffed beets. It also has two pages of recipes for my favorite underused vegetable, kohlrabi.
By Deborah Madison, 2002
I have never made a Deborah Madison recipe that wasn’t ridiculously delicious. We heart Deborah Madison. ‘Nuff said.
By the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, 2004
If you live in the Midwest and have a garden or CSA or shop at farmers’ markets, this book is a must-have. It takes you alphabetically through each piece of produce you’re likely to run into, describes how to cook and store it, and gives a few recipes to get you started. I had an earlier version of this book when I first started cooking for myself and it encouraged me to be creative and try new things.
By Beth Dooley, 2013
This book is a love letter to Minnesota growers and producers. It gives several solid, spare recipes to highlight the fresh flavors of each item included. It also captures the full farmers market experience, including not just produce, but also cheeses, meats, and grains. It has beautiful photography to boot.
By Tricia Cornell, 2014
Do you know where to find your nearest farmers market? This book has maps of markets in Minnesota and the Twin Cities. It also is arranged alphabetically by ingredient with an introduction for each ingredient explaining the differences in varieties/types of items as well as how to select the ripest/sweetest/best tasting of each. It also tells you when you’re likely to find each item at the market — handy!