Book Review

Exotic Foods: A Kitchen and Garden Guide

by Marian Van Atta

2002, Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida. ISBN 1-56164-215-0, soft cover. 213 pages.
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Reviewed by Benjamin Kuo (9/2002)

Exotic Foods: A Kitchen and Garden Guide is a collection of short articles drawn from Living off the Land Subtropic Newsletter. The book covers all kinds of rare fruit, ranging from calamondin and kumquat to jaboticaba, carob, jujube and other trees. The articles are contributed by a variety of authors and rare-fruit growers mostly located in Florida and are a mix of fact and personal anecdotes from the writers. Some other fruits covered include: macadamia, lychee, loquat, mango, papaya, guava, sapodilla, nogal, Surinam cherry and carambola as well as domestic apples, peaches and pears.

The book is divided into sections: Basic Growing Tips; Citrus Fruit, Nut and Condiment Trees, Favorite American Fruit Trees, Exotic Fruit Trees, Shrubs, Fruiting Canes, Plants with Edible Roots and Bulbs, Fruit-Bearing Vines, Useful Plants from Seeds and Cuttings, Raising Exotic Quail, and Serving Up the Bounty.

The articles describe each fruit, sometimes offering suggestions on growing and harvesting. Line drawings help illustrate the form of the fruit. Many articles describe the background and history of a fruit and its uses. In particular, the book is peppered with details on the success of growers (particularly in Florida) in raising different exotic fruits.

For the rare-fruit enthusiast, the book offers another reference to compare notes and get some ideas for plants to try out. Unfortunately, sometimes the book shows the age of the source material, some of which was written in the 1970s--for example, the "new" varieties of some trees identified in the book are no longer all that new--and not all plants are identified by scientific name. The quality of the material also varies-some articles only give the basics of what a fruit is but others give many details and hints for growing and propagating the plants.

The best feature of the book is not the articles; it is the accompanying recipes for using different fruits. Recipes are available for almost every fruit in the book, and a section on making fruit wine is also included. There are lots of interesting ideas that I haven't seen published elsewhere, for using things like Monstera, Surinam cherry, pyracantha, sapodilla, lychee, and many other fruits.

Exotic Foods offers the rare-fruit enthusiast a collection of articles that might be useful in deciding what to plant next in the backyard, and it is a resource for figuring out what to do with that fruit that is already growing. Because this book is written by rare-fruit growers, other rare-fruit enthusiasts might find it an interesting addition to their collections.

© Copyright 2002, California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
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