Book Review: “Asian Vegetables”

Review Asian Vegetables
“Asian Vegetables: Cooking, Gardening, Storytelling”
By The Wang Sisters
House of Anansi Press, 2023
352 pages, hardcover, $41

Early this year, MOFGA was glad to welcome Stephanie Wang — one of the authors of this gorgeous book — as the speaker at a webinar on growing Asian vegetables in your garden. After enjoying her talk, I was happy to have the opportunity to read and review the beautiful book that Stephanie created with her sisters Caroline and Patricia (and as the eldest of three sisters myself, I am always happy to enjoy collaborations and projects by similar trios). “Asian Vegetables” features lush photography, recipes from cuisines around the world, information about growing 15 Asian vegetables organically, and stories from the Wang family as they — and their food and recipes — journeyed to their home in Canada over generations.

The book is arranged by season and includes helpful charts and information interspersed with personal essays and stories. Each of the 15 different Asian vegetables includes a description of growing practices and a few recipes to try once you harvest your bounty (or purchase it from your local farm — the recipes and stories make the book a lovely resource for those enjoying the food as well as those growing it). The vegetables featured grow in northern climates and will do well for many growers in Maine. The growing information includes handy planting charts, a crop rotation plan and more, and I appreciate the tips for growing at a variety of scales, including in pots or other containers.

The recipes included for each vegetable span an array of cuisines and complexity. You’ll find favorite family soups and fancier dishes to try for a special occasion. Friends and neighbors with different cooking styles and backgrounds shared their recipes featuring the vegetables as well. I cooked up the sticky rice with bok choy on a snowy day this winter while daydreaming about drinking a glass of shiso lemonade this summer. Like the charts and information related to gardening, you’ll find helpful cooking information including a chart about the best ways to preserve the different vegetables and an overview of spices and oils used.

Outside of the practical knowledge shared in this book, readers will find essays and family stories to enjoy throughout. The MOFGA community might especially resonate with the Wang sisters’ thoughts on farming based on community and their musings in the planning section about gardening as a creative act. Growers and home chefs alike will find joy in this resource — and will hopefully find some Asian vegetables in their gardens and on their tables this year.

– Anna Libby, Mount Vernon, Maine

This review was originally published in the summer 2024 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. Browse the archives for free content on organic agriculture and sustainable living practices.

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