9 March 2001



WHAT to do with a book you love and hate in equal measure? Kiss it goodbye, perhaps. Just such a maddeningly, delightful book* is one compiled by Nina Planck.

The second two-thirds of the book should be compulsory reading in households were people believe food is produced by supermarkets and arable land is a field cropped by Arabs. Its a celebration of the vegetable treasures to be found in farmers markets throughout the land, packed with clear, concise recipes, written in the no-nonsense style of a superior domestic science teacher.

How refreshing to find imaginative recipes incorporating lesser known vegetables such as celeriac risotto and kohlrabi and pear salad with chives. There are old favourites, too, such as beef fillet spiced up with a mustard and rosemary crust. Recipes drawing on simple straight forward food that youre likely to find in any farmers market up and down the land.

Well not quite. How many markets would you have to tour to find the ingredients for octopus with potatoes and paprika?

Seafood aside, if you know a family whose vegetables are always supplied tin-shaped or which puts its trust in the microwave more than good British mince, send them a copy of this book. But make sure you tear out the first third first.

Sadly, its as bad as the remainder is good. If you like your cook books spiced with a large helping of anti-farming bigotry, this book is for you. I found its prejudiced rant against modern farming methods hard to stomach. Particularly irritating were the assertions that: "Most commercial growers routinely use toxic chemicals," followed by reference to DDT found in produce on supermarket shelves.

Was that a weasel way of implying British farmers use DDT (which of course they do not) or perhaps just a co-incidence?

Nina Planck has done sterling work in helping to promote UK farmers markets, which register sales of £65m/year. She comes from a farming family in Virginia, USA, and her love of good fresh food and some of the people who produce it shines through her book.

But what a pity Ms Planck chooses to denigrate modern farming, seemingly in an attempt to boost the already massive public appeal of her beloved farmers markets.

Mike Stones

*The Farmers Market Cookbook is available from Hodder and Stoughton priced at £18.99.

&#8226 See Business for more information on farmers markets.