(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 10, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Whenever I get overrun with vegetables, I reach for Garden Way's Joy of Gardening Cookbook by Janet Ballantyne. Even though this book was originally published in 1984, (an anniversary edition was printed in 1994), the tips and recipes inside never go out of style.
According to her bio, Janet began cooking at age 12 when she spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her Austrian-born mother and grandmother who studied cooking in Vienna. She paid for college by working in the kitchen of a Vermont Country Inn, and then was employed by a catering business in London, England. She was able to begin her own successful catering business, "A Catered Affair," at the same time she began giving cooking demonstrations regularly on local television in 1980.
The Joy of Gardening Cookbook is purely a recipe book - there are no vegetable growing tips here. However, Janet does offer some valuable insight into vegetable harvesting, including what to look for when picking your vegetables, and how to store them if you're not cooking them right away.
The book is divided into chapters by vegetable. So, if your kitchen is overrun with tomatoes, look no further than the tomato chapter. (Personally, I won't use any other recipe but Janet's to make stewed tomatoes.) Each chapter begins with an At A Glance section which details that vegetable's cultivar information, harvesting and storage information, handling and preparation tips, and yield information.
The photography throughout the book is plentiful and helpful. For some of the more complicated recipes, step-by-step photos are provided. Admittedly, some pictures are a little cheesy-looking -- after all, this book is from the 80s -- but don't let that put you off of the recipes.
And, oh gosh...the recipes. Some of my favorites from among the more than 300 recipes in the book: Blue Cheese and Green Bean Quiche, Pink Swirl Soup (made with beets and leeks), Squash Enchiladas, Potato Pancakes and Zucchini Chocolate Cake (much better than you probably think it sounds, believe me!).
None of the recipes in the book are very complicated or time-consuming. Janet doesn't claim to be a gourmet and, being a gardener who grows all her own vegetables, she doesn't like to spend all day in the kitchen either. "From garden to table in less than an hour is often my goal," she writes.
My only regret is that Janet hasn't done more books beyond the three she's authored (Desserts from the Garden and the Red and Green Tomato Cookbook are the other two). The Joy of Gardening Cookbook is currently out of print but can still be had from several online vendors, including BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com. Several copies are usually available on eBay as well.