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Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom
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Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,217 ratings  ·  129 reviews
In her latest cookbook, Deborah Madison, America's leading authority on vegetarian cooking and author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, reveals the surprising relationships between vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs within the same botanical families, and how understanding these connections can help home cooks see everyday vegetables in new light.
For over three decad
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Ten Speed Press
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  2,217 ratings  ·  129 reviews

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Mar 17, 2013 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Mir by: Tasting Table
Sample recipe: Cabbage Panade

Yield: 4 servings
Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes


Garlic Stock
5 cups water
6 whole, peeled garlic cloves
12 fresh sage leaves
1 dried bay leaf


1 garlic clove, halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon at room temperature
1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon juniper berries, crushed
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped sage leaves
1 small head green cabbage or Savoy cabbage (about 2 pounds)--quartered, cored and cut crosswise into ½-inch-wid
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cookbook
Before cooking any of the recipes, I read Vegetable Literacy every night before bed. It's a sweet read, anecdotal more than educational, and the recipes are deceptively simple looking. But deliciousness lies within these pages. Just looking at the recipes without making any of them, I was skeptical that they would be anything special. But making them--boy, Madison has serious skill in the combination of basic ingredients to create a mouthwatering meal. I've made three recipes so far--the quinoa ...more
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
my favorites, things that made my eyes widen when I tasted them

soy-braised tofu with five-spice powder
anise shortbreads with orange flower water
sauteed Jerusalem artichokes with rosemary and smoked salt*
chervil-chive butter**
sorrel sauce with yogurt***
Rice with Spinach, Lemon, Feta and Pistachios
Peanut Butter Cookies
cauliflower salad with goat cheese
Roasted Rutabaga Batons w/ Caraway and Smoked Paprika
Carrot Soup w/ Tangled Collard Greens
White bean and fen
Becki Iverson
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book on a whim (which I NEVER do), for two reasons:

1) From working with one of her earlier cookbooks shortly after becoming a vegetarian, I know that Deborah Madison surely knows her shit when it comes to vegetables;

2) I enjoy using lesser known, hard to find, or hyper-local/foraged ingredients in cooking, and although I know how to find them I seem to have a difficult time knowing what to do with them.

This book is miraculous for anyone looking for a primer on every kind of veget
Mar 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: cookbooks
torn - ultimately, i think it's pretentious. it never quite reaches an encyclopedic level, though she nicely interweaves personal stories and background about the various individual vegetables. i like the categorical separation - interesting for knowledge-sake, but ultimately this does not make a fine cookbook. the recipes don't make sense in this order, so you would never use this book regularly, or for spontaneous cooking. she claims these recipes are easy, but they are each filled with the un ...more
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
This gorgeous book is especially essential for CSA members and farmer's market lurkers. It's arranged by vegetable families, and would be a wonderful reference when one is confronted with a relatively unfamiliar vegetable or a glut of whatever's in season. The writing is beautiful and somewhat chatty, like hanging out in the kitchen of an accomplished and warmly friendly chef. The author suggests flavor pairings for each vegetable family and also offers information as to which parts of the plant ...more
Laura Leaney
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a big beautiful book with a perfect title. Deborah Madison is like your mom (if she taught Home Ec, or as I used to call it Home Ick). The book is divided by vegetable family, such as "The Cabbage Family," and then further divided by type - like red cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. The information on each vegetable isn't all that groundbreaking for me - although it's nice to be introduced, I guess. Carrot, this is Laura - Laura, this is Carrot, who did not get his orange ...more
Julie Davis
Dec 26, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a beautifully written book which nicely weaves gardening and cooking anecdotes with factual information. Having read several other books which fill a similar niche I was interested to see how this one stacked up.

I really liked the writing and author's voice. However, none of the recipes appealed to me. To be fair, Madison is speaking to vegetarians whenever she writes and I am not in that group, though I do enjoy a good vegetable recipe as much as the next person. These recipes may all b
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful book. Deborah Madison is one of my favorite cookbook writers. She consistently creates a clear path to a delicious destination. Her ideas are innovative, yet down to earth. Vegetable Literacy is carefully researched and well organized, an interesting read for plant lovers as well as cooks. My reservation about the book is that it is too beautiful. I don't feel inspired to bring it into the kitchen, it doesn't beg to be splattered and stained. It sits on my coffee table where ...more
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cookbooks, gardening
This is an amazing book. I had it from the library and only managed to get through the section on carrots and other family members and had to skim the rest of this not small book. I'll have to get it again, though it would be an excellent book for a serious cook to have in a personal library. The author takes a fresh (and very thorough) approach to growing, selecting, and preparing vegetables. One of the things I liked best was a list with each vegetable of what condiments or spices complement ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I liked having a book that put things in families. However, I would have liked to see more photos of finished dishes. And, more photos of the unusual things listed. I don't need a photo of a carrot, but asafetida would have been something new.
D Dyer
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cookbooks, favorites
This book honestly changed how I cook vegetables. It has made me a more adventurous and more confident cook. I’ve returned to it so often that it’s practically falling a part
Jan 18, 2018 marked it as got-it-unread  ·  review of another edition
I got this on sale for $2.99 via BookBub, some of the recipes and information looks interesting. It's NOT a vegetarian book, though I believe it mostly is, and I am confident I can veganize anything in it.

Looking forward to trying a few new simple recipes, and learning a bit about vegetable "families".
Dec 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: cookery
I learned some things about vegetable families which I could have known but didn't. I struggle with cook books with too much writing, which lately is all chef autobiography. This is a little autobio, but a lot of hard botany facts. It wasn't a perfect mix, but I got some recipes to try, so further updates as warrent
Debra Daniels-zeller
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food, cookbooks
I put this book on my list nearly a month ago, and this whole time I've been cooking and slowly savoring all the tips and information about the 12 vegetable families covered in it. It's too big to take anywhere to read, so I read it at night have delicious dreams. Initially I got this book because I'm a big fan of Deborah Madison's recipes. I always learn something new from Deborah's descriptions or explanations. When I first ordered it, I hadn't expected anything so huge and wonderful. THe cov ...more
Robert Hudder
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Look, I picked this up at the library and within minutes was immersed in it. The approach of looking at the families where these vegetables live and their similarities opened doors for me. Simple ideas such as the fact that Queen Anne's Lace is a wild carrot got me to thinking on whether you could eat the tops and bottoms of that plant in the same way as a carrot.

So aside from the botanical, there are straight forward recipes. But the proximity of the recipes to relatives just screams for reint
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Deborah Madison is well-known for vegetarian cooking. This book actually break vegetables down into their related families of plants, allowing us to see interconnections between different kinds of plants. I have made a number of the recipes in this book, and in other cases have improvised my own variations, following Madison's model, always with excellent results. I especially appreciate her sometimes sly suggestions for going beyond a strictly vegetarian diet, as when she notes that shrimp migh ...more
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most beautiful, thoughtful and useful vegetable cookbooks/gardeners handbooks I have seen in many years. Like Martha, I am also previewing the library copy--so I haven't fully digested the whole book, that will take years. I will need to live with it. Deborah Madison comes from a family of botanists, but also worked with Alice Waters, founded Greens restaurant, and wrote many cookbooks. This book is big-- 400 pages in a 11x11" format. Vegetables and herbs are classed by family ...more
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Vegetables are the new bacon/kale/quinoa/whatever. This cookbook/garden advice book is a good addition to anyone's cooking library. There's background about particular vegetables and what it's like to plant them. I like that the recipes are unfussy and easy to build off of. The pictures in here are beautiful and really do make me want to head down to the farmer's market or at least the garden store to pick up some fresh vegetables to eat/plant.
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cooking
The first page I zeroed in on said, "The main caveat with leeks is that they can harbor sand and dirt within their many-layered shanks. . ." page 256

Sold right there with the language!

This book is a vegetable lover's haven.

More lovely and mildly humorous text:

"Leeks embody the delicate side of the allium tribe, adding more of a whisper and less of shout when it comes to the onion flavor."
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cookbooks
This cookbook is big, expensive and is for folks who are SERIOUS about vegetables. For forty bucks, I can find a very good cookbook that'll have a wider range of recipes from all cooking disciplines and probably be more relaxing to read. For Gods sake, I just want to cook something, not get a doctorate in Advanced Theory of Avocado.
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
I like the way this book is organized. The information at the beginning of each section is wonderful. The recipes, not so much. Too many odd ingredients.
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's easy to roll your eyes at the mentions of coconut oil and getting eggs from your neighbours, but every single recipe I've made from this book has been a winner.
Feb 13, 2020 added it
This book has had a journey—a literal one from state to state as I moved around the country, after it came as a housewarming gift from my botany professors. Deborah Madison has written many books and this one is not her most famous, but a cookbook organized by botanical families was a perfect choice for someone who adores both plants and literacy and was doing her own cooking for the first time. My first impression, though, was that the recipes were a little too gourmet for me. I’m cheap, cookin ...more
Marka Siegel
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is wonderful. I like that it gives the Latin names of all the vegetables and a bit of useful information about each of the vegetable families. It covers a lot of obscure vegetables that you find at a farmer's market or ethnic grocery store and find yourself wondering what they are and what to do with them. I liked this book so much I gave my first copy away as a Christmas present, and then decided I would try out the Kindle version as a replacement. I think I preferred the hard copy, b ...more
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
I've never been particularly charmed by Deborah Madison's writing or recipes. This book feels like an American attempt at Nigel Slater's "Tender," which is to say it's bigger in every way and much less interesting. The chapter introductions in particular feel like Madison couldn't decide between personal vignettes or cursory culinary histories--so she includes both, inconsistently, to ill effect. The recipes feel out of date by at least 15 years, for a book that came out 7 years ago.

That all be
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
It took me exactly 365 days to finish this book from the day I first picked it up, but that's not because of the quality of the book. I found it delightful, interesting, and inspiring as a whole and I plan to keep it in my "permanent" cookbook collection which currently consists of six books total.

The book is broken up into ten chapters for each of the most popular vegetable families. Within each chapter lists all of the edible veggie within the family along with a brief history (if there is on
Abby Tamkin
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Beautiful combination of botany text and cookbook. Amazing pictures.
I had to return it to the library before I got to make many recipes. Some are certainly not "accessible", but most look like things I could make and would want to eat.
This education on vegetables has been especially useful in light of my CSA subscription. What do I do with these strange things? What *are* these strange things?
But there were some vegetables I could not find in the book, or found only a line about.
A great section
VillaPark Public Library
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Explore the edible plant world with this book, which divides vegetables into twelve biological families, sharing not just DNA but also culinary characteristics. So, for example, umbifeller herbs (cilantro, parsley, chervil, dill) complement and enhance the flavors of umbifeller vegetables (carrots, celery, parsnips). And as fascinating as that relationship is to discover, the recipes make easy but impressive sides and soups.

Check this book out from the Villa Park Public Library!
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food
I didn't feel like I learned that much from this book... but I also couldn't get through a chapter without bookmarking several ideas for things to make later. It's all stuff that is technically not challenging, good for a weeknight supper, with flavor combinations I just would not have thought of. So far I've only made the celery salsa, but hooo wow that was a good idea. I read the Kindle edition as a library loan but this would be a very useful book to have in physical form when you are stumped ...more
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Deborah Madison is an American chef, writer and cooking teacher. She has been called an expert on vegetarian cooking and her gourmet repertoire showcases fresh garden produce. Her work also highlights Slow Food, local foods and farmers' markets.

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