Cooking

Green with Endive

Heather Hardison illustrates gardening 101 in her new book, "Homegrown"
Homegrown Illustrated Bites
Photo: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, an imprint of Abrams

April is Homegrown Month at Tasting Table.

The grass is always greener on the other side.

Or maybe that's because here at TTHQ in NYC, we're finally thawing out from the winter while in lush, sunny Berkeley, California, Heather Hardison, the illustrator and blogger of Illustrated Bites, is already done plucking all sorts of pungent spring greens from her home garden.

"Lemon basil, classic Italian basil, cilantro, parsley—it's a good little herb garden," Hardison rattles off over the phone. "Then the peas and fava beans are wrapping up in my vegetable garden up front, and the clementine tree is blossoming now."

But Hardison's idyllic life doesn't have to be California dreaming for the rest of us. Rather, this epic garden haul can happen in your backyard, too—random snow flurries, be damned—thanks to Hardison's new illustrated gardening book, Homegrown: Illustrated Bites from Your Garden to Your Table, out today. Visual learners with a budding green thumb, this is the book for you.

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"I always gardened a bit, but when I moved to California, I was so impressed by how little I knew. I never had seen how Brussel sprouts or artichokes grew!" Hardison, a North Carolina native, shares. "So I took gardening to the next level, learning the whole process from growing and preparing to cooking."

By "next level," she means researching on her own and experimenting with composing the perfect recipe for compost (with substitutions!) and thrashing in the bushes to illustrate proper blueberry-picking technique. It also means sketching out ingredients at their peak, step by step, season by season, with her own recipes, like moist blueberry cake and refreshing tomato-watermelon gazpacho. And the results are done with wonderful cartoonish flair, drawn from Hardison's design studies and sign-making day job.

"I'm so into people knowing where their food comes from," Hardison says. "I felt like it was important to share that information but in a way that's accessible and fun."

So now you can make your blueberry cake and eat it, too.

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