304-page paperback by Graham Burnett. Publisher: Permanent Publications (2014). ISBN: 9781856232012

Available from the Vegan Organic network shop www.veganorganic.net/shop

Review by Tony Martin

To read this book you will need time, a comfortable chair, a notebook, and a plate of snacks by your side. Why? Because it is really two books blended into one. A book on permaculture and a recipe book, both from a vegan’s perspective. After reading about cream of celeriac soup and buckwheat pancakes you will be reaching out and snacking as you start to plan your new permaculture garden, complete with hügelkultur mounds and salad beds placed close to your kitchen.

At 304 pages this 6½” x 7½” book – printed on FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper – is not something you will be able to read in an afternoon. Around 140 of these pages are recipes, the rest are devoted to permaculture, veganism and gardening.

– The first four chapters are relatively brief, starting with chapter one which leads you gently into some fundamentals of both veganism and permaculture. Clear and effective examples and explanations will help encourage someone unfamiliar with either subject to explore the rest of this book.

– Chapter two covers personal health and effectiveness, by giving some inspiring anecdotes and general practical advice on vegan nutrition.

– Chapter three, entitled ‘Permaculture home and kitchen’, is mostly recipes and reducing the ecological footprint of your home through reducing waste and ‘capturing’ excess produce.

– Chapter four, at 20 pages long, gives you the basics of ‘Designing the permaculture garden’ surveying, analysis, – implementation and maintenance.

– Chapter five looks at the vegan organic vegetable patch, discussing aspects such as soil types, and ways to fertilise the soil without resorting to animal based manures or artificial fertilisers. This section would give a beginner a good grounding, and the confidence to go ahead and start growing many of the staples of a vegan diet. The rest of this chapter is filled with over 30 pages of recipes, including some for vegan cheese and that perpetual staple of vegans, hummus. You can see why the plate of snacks should be to hand so that you aren’t distracted from reading by having to go off and make some food.

– Chapter six has a relatively short section covering main crops and staples, which encourages you to look around and consider the source of these when not producing your own. Topics include fair trade, buying local, farmers’ markets and box schemes, and is followed by 30 pages of main meal recipes.

– Chapter seven is entitled ‘Towards a tree based culture’ and quite rightly promotes the virtues of trees and forest gardening which have the potential to make dramatic positive changes to our planet. As you may have come to expect from this book, this section is followed by a number of recipes aimed at making best use of the produce from such a system of planting.

– Chapter eight briefly covers wild food, giving some ideas, precautions and recipes to make use of what is essentially a free resource (apart from your time spent collecting).

– Finally chapter nine, ‘Coming full circle the power of – the community’, encourages us to be part of a larger solution by being involved in the community, sharing information and helping others to make positive changes in their lives.

Conclusion

This book is aimed at those interested in, or starting out on the journey to, a more compassionate and ecological lifestyle. The language is informative, the layout clear, and the text is interspersed with interesting anecdotes, examples and useful recipes.

I liked the way the author, whilst covering a wide range of subjects, still maintained a consistent level of detail. At no stage did I feel that what was presented was either too basic or too complex for the intended audience, either of which can easily put off a reader.

I can see this book appealing to anyone interested in either permaculture or healthy and wholesome recipes – and perhaps also to people, like myself, who may wish to share this informative and non confrontational manual with others. It sets out all the reasons which persuaded me, some years back, to become a vegan permaculturist.

The Vegan Book of Permaculture is available from VON’s shop www.veganorganic.net/shop or from Graham Burnett at www.spiralseed.co.uk. In the USA, Chelsea Green Publishing are stocking it: www.chelseagreen.com/the-vegan-book-of-permaculture

This article appeared in Growing Green International magazine Num 34 (Winter 2014/15), p20.