Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix: A Review and Book Giveaway

– Posted in: Book reviews

Cold climate gardeners are used to hearing “that doesn’t grow in your climate.” Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix is a refreshing change from that. Not only does she describe 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun, but she tells you which varieties are best for growing in short seasons, which ones appreciate and grow best in cool weather, and which ones need a little help–either by starting them indoors or covering them in the fall–to get from germination to harvest. But if she can grow them in Halifax, Nova Scotia, there’s a good chance you can grow them, too.

Like spinach? Try these greens!

spinach alternatives

Clockwise from top left: New Zealand spinach, orach, green amaranth, magenta spreen, tricolor amaranth, sweet potato leaf, molokhia, and (in the center) purple amaranth.

Every section is introduced with a common vegetable and some interesting alternatives–spinach, in this case. Some of the suggestions are much cold hardier than spinach, and some are more heat tolerant.

In some cases, Niki recommends unusual varieties of vegetables most people already grow, such as peas, carrots, and beets. But many of the unusual vegetables she profiles are enjoyed by other cultures around the world. In fact, that’s how Niki got started experimenting with “weird” vegetables: her Lebanese mother-in-law recognized as a Lebanese summer squash the snake gourd Nike was growing. Nike had no clue it was edible in its immature form. She had planned to use it in its mature gourd form as a Halloween decoration. That discovery led Niki on a search for other ethnic vegetables she was missing out on.

cucamelons also called Mexican Sour Gherkin

Cucamelons! Photo ©Niki Jabbour

One of the cutest of her discoveries has got to be cucamelons. Cucamelons (Melothria scabra), also known as Mexican sour gherkins or mouse melons, are “small cucumber-like fruits, shaped like baby watermelons [with] a cucumber-like taste with a touch of lemon,” as described in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog. Nike says her kids like them so much there’s hardly any to bring into the kitchen. They sure do look fun!

Not for deer only

The most surprising vegetables were those that started out in the flower garden. I actually had heard of both daylilies and sea kale being eaten, but not hostas. Yes, hostas. There are a few more garden flowers featured in her book, and I’ll let you discover them for yourself. Niki also lets you know when the vegetables are pretty enough to plant in your flower garden, or in a pot on your deck.

Your ancestors may have eaten something from this book. Mine did!

Back to that Lebanese squash aka snake gourd–it’s called cucuzza. Reading that name reminded me of a squash my great-grandfather grew. He called it gagootz, or maybe cucutz. Yep, same thing. According to Niki, cucuzza is grown all around the Mediterranean, but I had to google Sicilian summer squash before I was sure it was the same thing. Most of the search results I visited didn’t seem to realize it could be harvested and eaten when only a foot long.

If you’re starting to get a “been there, done that” attitude about your vegetable garden, or if you’ve seen unusual varieties in a seed catalog and wondered if they’re any good, or if you’re looking for a vegetable your grandparents always talk about–this is the book for you! It’s fun to read even if you don’t grow vegetables!

Book giveaway

One commenter, chosen at random, will receive a copy of this book. Sorry, but only United States and Canadian readers are eligible to enter. One entry per person. Giveaway ends on Sunday, February 18 at midnight Pacific time. For other chances to win, check out these blogs:
More Than Oregano
A Way to Garden
The Impatient Gardener
Red Dirt Ramblings and look for a blog post at Garden Delights tomorrow.

For this post, I received a copy of the book to read, along with a copy to give away to one of my readers. All the opinions are my own. I loved this book! Links to Amazon will give me a small commission if you order something.

Comments are closed because the giveaway is over and the winner has been chosen.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Donna@GardensEyeView February 13, 2018, 5:32 pm

I love Niki’s books and am looking forward to this one….she has some great ideas for edibles….I am trying the Cucamelons this year!

Cathy McCarty February 13, 2018, 11:00 am

Wow this is an interesting eye opener

Deborah Banks February 13, 2018, 9:40 am

This looks interesting! Note to Amy: check out some of the Permaculture books. As part of their ‘forest farming’ they include lists of foods that grow in partial shade.

TIFFANY February 12, 2018, 10:51 pm

I would so love to try these out in my first garden!

Oksana Klueva February 12, 2018, 11:16 am

I have Baker Creek catalog and will order cucamelons this year. They look like a fun veggie.

Carla Cox February 12, 2018, 6:50 am

I would love this book. I have problems growing everything

Cathy Fruhauf February 12, 2018, 1:16 am

been very cold here in upstate New York – could use more short season variety ideas.

Denise Tripp February 11, 2018, 8:44 pm

I am always interested iin learning about new things to grow!

Debbie S. February 11, 2018, 6:31 pm

I am always looking to grow something new. The book looks like it could have some great new ideas!

Kay February 11, 2018, 5:13 pm

I want to grow those cucamelons.

Louise February 11, 2018, 5:10 pm

I need to expand what I grow now that I have a bit more time. This book looks wonderfully inspiring.

Stacie Knapp February 11, 2018, 4:42 pm

Are colchicums what I would call fall crocus? But not actually crocus at all, and are they poisonous of eaten? Does this book include info on heirloom varieties or mostly hybrids? Thanks for posting this review.

Kate D February 11, 2018, 1:31 pm

Vermont here — short growing season + woodchucks, but we love our veggie garden!

Sally Christiansen February 11, 2018, 9:22 am

What an interesting book. I would very much enjoy reading it.

Amy Olmsted February 11, 2018, 9:15 am

I wonder if there are any veggies that grow well in shade? Because that’s pretty much all I have.

Jackie Tanaka February 11, 2018, 8:54 am

Would love to read about the over 200 garden edibles mentioned in the book. I
have been growing cucamelons the past two years. They do well growing up along the bitter melon vines in a raised bed.

Malinda February 11, 2018, 8:37 am

Good morning. I love to work with the soil. Have had flower beds for years. Before that a vegetable garden. Now looking at variety of veggies for fresh eating and sharing, not so much canning or preserving because the children all live away.

Jenny C February 11, 2018, 7:23 am

Trying to figure out what would be fun to grow and eat. Not always the same thing.?

8thday February 11, 2018, 5:57 am

I would love to learn more!