First-rate new books on vegetable gardening, wild-flowers, tomatoes and weeds that can be used for food have been published recently.
"How to Grown, Preserve & Store All the Food You Need," by Eddy Rice (Reston Pub. Co., 304 pages, well illustrated, $9.95) is a good guide to growing vegetables for immediate use or for canning, freezing, preserving storing. It covers preparation of the garden plot, soil testing, fertilizers, organic gardening, what and when to plant, and how to plant and care for 50 types of vegetables and fruits.
"I would suggest," says the author, "that most of us have grown fat and lazy and become entirely too dependent on supermarkets and convenience foods. It is just possible that gardening, canning, freezing, preserving and storing your annual food supply will eliminate many of the ideas you have with regard to what to do with your spare time."
"Wildflower Perennials for Your Garden - a detailed guide to years of bloom from America's long neglected native heritage," by Bebe Miles (Hawthorn, 290 pages, well illustrated, $10.95) was specifically writen for the home gardener, says the author.
"I have selected the 100 best perennial mainland American plants that in my experience offer the most for garden use. Related species with garden possibilities are also briefly mentioned so that there are perhaps 500 or so additional native plants covered. With a few notable exceptions, these are the easiest members of the native flora to cultivate. They are also the showiest or most useful for one reason or another.
"The drawings are designed to give a view of the physical form of both flower and plant. While the flowers are surely the first thing anyone thinks about, they are not always the most important factor in placing a plant in the garden.
"A species that has interesting foliage all season may offer more to the total picture than one with gorgeous but fleeting bloom. Ideally, a garden contains a blend of both, so there are exciting flowers from time to time but a general aura of pleasant green during the rest of the growing year. The artist shows you how each plant looks in its mature growth."
Robert Hendrickson, author of "The Great American Tomato Book - The one complete guide to growing and using tomatoes everywhere" (Doubleday, 226 pages, well illustrated, $8.95), unquestionably knows his tomatoes. For the first time in half a century, more garden space is being devoted to vegetables than flowers in America, and the vine-ripened tomato is without doubt the favorite of these vegetables.
"The truth is that only sweet corn (the second most popular homegrown vegetable) equals the tomato in taste when picked fresh from the garden. All vegetables are better fresh-picked, but fresh-picked corn and tomatoes taste like different species related only by name to celluloid, flannel-textured store-bought versions.
"This book is all about the tomato, solely about the tomato, its aim to make the best growing techniques, preserving methods, and tomato recipes available in one volume to experienced vegetable gardeners and the 2.5 million beginners who join their ranks every year."
The plants described in "A City Herbal - A Guide to the Lore, Legend and Usefulness of 34 Plants that Grow in the City" by Maida Silverman (Knopf, 180 pages, well illustrated, $10 hardcover, $5.95 paperback) grow wild in cities. In vacant lots and waste places, along roads and highways, in the poorest of soils, and from cracks in the sidewalk where there seems to be no soil at all, they manage to flourish and thrive.
"Almost all were highly esteemed at one time or another in human history.Some provided medicine and food; others were the source of beautiful colors for textiles. Many were used in magic and witchcraft.
"I have written about 34 plants that are special to me, all of them worthy of notice, fascinating, and even beautiful, once you get to know them. Many are edible and delicious, and almost all are useful, in one way or another."