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In The Great Dixter Cookbook: Recipes From An English Garden, vegetable gardener and
cook Aaron Bertelsen writes: I first taught myself to cook out of necessity; living
alone in my twenties, I was always in need of a good meal at the end of a hard day
s gardening. Over the years I have come to develop my own style, which, if pushed,
I would describe as fresh produce from the garden (home-grown fruit and vegetables
taste so much better than shop brought) and I do hate to waste the crops I have grown.
The Great Dixter Cookbook is a collection of more than 70 recipes from the English
kitchen garden of Great Dixter. The book also includes growing guides for fruit and
vegetables and gardener s checklists.
Great Dixter is a 14th-century manor house that was home to the great gardener Christopher
Lloyd who passed away six years ago. Since then, Great Dixter has become a center
of learning for all students and lovers of horticulture.
Bertelsen, a Kew-trained horticulturist, is the house manager and lives at the manor
house. He also is the chief cook and gardener for all the food served at Dixter during
all the learning symposiums. One would think that a daunting task, but not for Bertelsen.
He loves his work and has been there for more than 20 years. He has collected recipes
from his grandfather in New Zealand, from Christopher Lloyd, and from his travels
around the world.
There are two words to describe his extremely beautiful cookbook and they are pure
Bertelsen came to Spartanburg on March 23 and spoke to a sellout crowd at Spartanburg
Community College. After 10 years in the vegetable garden, you might think that I
have all the answers, he said. I don t - very far from it. But this is one of the
beauties of my job. One lifetime is not enough to learn everything there is to know
about growing vegetables, which makes me feel confident that I am never going to get
What makes The Great Dixter Cookbook so successful is the commonality of the recipes,
all made with simple and fresh ingredients from the garden. The Wall Street Journal
named it one of the five best cookbooks this year. In today s fast-paced electronic
world, simple and plain is a welcome ingredient.
The cookbook s unique cover is a reproduction of the stenciled wallpaper that hangs
in Great Dixter. The full two-page photos make you want to jump into those gorgeous
pictures and take a walk around. The book begins with an introduction from Bertelsen
and gets right into growing advice on vegetables. This is a person who has had a lot
of experience and success, as well as having experienced failure with growing vegetables
Bertelsen believes that cooking and gardening go hand in hand. What happens in the
kitchen is a celebration of what the garden gives us, he said. He believes in cooking
what is in season. The fruit and vegetable section is followed by a collection of
recipes that are his favorites. One of the best sections is a collection of his favorite
basic recipes for vegetable stock, tomato passata, basic pastries, salad dressings,
The garden diary section is full of very valuable tips you need to know to be successful
at vegetable gardening. Very few cookbooks are organized this way. His garden diary
begins in autumn and walks you through his gardening year.
From personal experience, I can vouch for the shortbread recipe and the tarragon chicken
dish. This cookbook is indeed an adventure in gardening and cooking. The two are tied
together with love and bound with string to produce this delicious cookbook. It makes
the reader want to sit in the kitchen at Great Dixter with a cup of tea to see what
Bertelsen will cook up next.
Linda Cobb is a master gardener who lectures, teaches, and does garden design in South
Carolina. She can be reached at 864-574-8493 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit her website at www.mygardenersguide.com