The Survival Gardener Book of the Week #10: Fruits of Warm Climates

gardening books

In my opinion, the best fruit are tropical fruit.

Mango, mamey sapote, chocolate pudding fruit, jaboticaba, pineapple, jackfruit, avocado, key lime… the tropics has the best of the best.

I may be somewhat prejudiced, however, by the fact that I’m allergic to most temperate fruit. I can’t eat raw apples, cherries, pears, mulberries, peaches, plums, strawberries, blackberries or even figs.

No kidding.

It’s been a source of great irritation that I’m a garden writer and food forest designer who is allergic to many of the trees I love to grow. They won’t kill me, but they do cause a lot of pain and itching in my mouth, throat and chest if I ingest them.

Fortunately, I’m only allergic to a couple of tropical fruit. Jackfruit is sadly one of them, but that’s likely because it’s related to figs and mulberries.

Fruits of Warm Climates

But – my stupid allergies aside – if you’re interested in growing the many beautiful fruit of the tropics, there is no better resource than Julia F. Morton’s book Fruits of Warm Climates.

Fruits Of Warm Climates new cover

That’s the cover of the newer edition. I have the older one, though, and like that cover much better.

fruits of warm climates cover

No matter which version you get, the book is a treasure. It’s filled with illustrations and varieties. You’ll meet fruit you never knew existed. Like wax apples! You’ll see my copy of Fruits of Warm Climates in this video:

Because this book is expensive, it took me some time to pull the trigger on buying my own copy. Now I’m glad I did. It’s a great big handsome book and though Julia Morton died over a decade ago, her writing and personality live on through her words and enthusiasm for some of the more beautiful fruit trees in the world.

Fruits of Warm Climates is one of the best gardening books you’ll ever own. Even if you’re not in the tropics, this book will make you dream!


The Survival Gardener Book of the Week #9: All that the Rain Promises and More

gardening books

Thus far, I’ve mostly concentrated my “book of the week” posts on gardening texts.

Today I’ll share instead one of my absolute favorite mushroom foraging books: All That the Rain Promises and More…

All That The Rain Promises and More by David Arora

I mean, look at that cover! Can’t you tell he’s my kind of guy?

David Arora’s book Mushrooms Demystified is a definitive classic on mushrooms and I own that one too and highly recommend it as well.

Thanks in large part to Arora’s writing, I lost some of my fear of mushrooms and took my first baby steps into foraging a few years ago. I harvested and ate chanterelles, boletes, puffballs and “old man of the woods” mushrooms I found in my old North Florida neighborhood – and they were great! I still stay clear of gilled mushrooms, because I’m a chicken and fear making a mistake, but the others I no longer fear.

All That the Rain Promises and More, despite being a “guide to Western mushrooms,” still contains many species found across North America and beyond. Mushroom spores spread by wind all around the world and they grow where they please.

I love this guy’s writing and humor. He’s both funny and highly knowledgeable… and this book is a great one to leave on your coffee table for visitors to peruse as they wonder at your brilliant and eclectic taste in books.

As one reviewer on Amazon writes:

This year I suddenly realized how cool mushrooms are! (Or I’m just getting old.) For the past few months, in addition to scouring EVERYWHERE within a 3 mile radius of my West Seattle home, I’ve spent countless hours (days) searching Google for identification help, which I’m sure you know causes more harm than good at times.

I ordered this along with the Audobon Field Guide and they both arrived yesterday. Within minutes of opening this book, I identified 3 of the mushrooms sitting on my kitchen counter that I’d just spent half the day trying to figure out online! Pictures are great because they’re color-accurate and show the angles I need, it’s organized in a way that’s meaningful to me as a beginner, and the descriptions gave me long-overdue insight into concepts I’ve struggled with such as taxonomy, toxicity effects, and how to tell the difference between an edible delight vs. a gut-wrenching nightmare. He even includes ridiculously simple recipes. Most importantly, as a mushroom noob, his non-condescending, light-hearted humor, and intuitive writing style gave me the confidence to feel like I can actually do this.“


A must-have for beginners and experts.

Get a copy here and you’ll help support this site.

I also own and use the Audubon Field Guide to Mushrooms, which has great photos.

You can also check out my list of the best mushroom foraging books here.


The Survival Gardener Book of the Week #8: Small-Scale Grain Raising

gardening books

I quit eating almost all grain some years back. I used to have heartburn, sore joints and lethargy during the day – not to mention a gut – and then I discovered the “paleo diet” thanks to this guy and his book.

I lost thirty pounds in about a month and a half, gained muscle, and so long as I stick somewhat close to the diet, I never get heartburn anymore. It’s truly amazing.

But… today we’ll throw that all out because we “Good Gardeners” love all plants, even the ones that make us fat, dull-witted and dyspeptic.

And because growing and utilizing grains really is a marvelous challenge and a link to the past.

In Touch with the Past

Rye… barley… wheat… corn… these are the storable foods that built great civilizations.

Joseph stored away bushels of wheat for Pharaoh in Egypt as he prepared for famine:

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, 48 and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. 49 And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.


53 The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.”

56 So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses[h] and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.

A much nastier tale relates to the deities of corn in Aztec culture:

“The fourth month of the Aztec calendar called Huei Tozoztli (“the Big Sleep”) was dedicated to the maize gods Centeotl and Chicomecoátl. Different ceremonies dedicated to green maize and grass took place in this month, which began around April 30th. To honor the maize gods, people carried out self-sacrifices through blood-letting rituals, and sprinkling their houses with blood. Furthermore, young women adorned themselves with necklaces of corn seeds. Maize ears and seeds were brought back from the field, the former placed in front of the gods’ images, whereas the latter were stored for planting in the next season.

As the son of the earth goddess Toci, Centeotl was also worshipped during the 11th month of Ochpaniztli, which begins September 27th on our calendar, and along with Chicomecoati and Xilonen. During this month, a woman was sacrificed and her skin was used to make a mask for Centeotl’s priest.”

Let’s call that reason #182993829 why we should be glad Christian missionaries traveled around the globe.

On a lighter note, don’t forget the marvelous uses of barley:

“Now the grain of the barley is mostly starch, but before the barley can grow this starch must be turned by chemicals called enzymes into sugar. The malster and brewer take the starch of barley, turn it into sugar, and then ‘ferment’ this sugar (as eating it with yeast is called) into alcohol.”

And we call the final product… BEER!

Small-Scale Grain Raising

Small-Scale Grain RaisingGene Logsdon’s book makes grains interesting for the home gardener, not just for the big factory farms that grow almost all of the wheat, corn, rice and other grains most of us use on a daily basis. I own the book and have planted patches of rye, corn, barley, wheat, amaranth, buckwheat and even sorghum.

As the description states:

“More and more Americans are seeking out locally grown foods, yet one of the real stumbling blocks to their efforts has been finding local sources for grains, which are grown mainly on large, distant corporate farms. At the same time, commodity prices for grains—and the products made from them—have skyrocketed due to rising energy costs and increased demand. In this book, Gene Logsdon proves that anyone who has access to a large garden or small farm can (and should) think outside the agribusiness box and learn to grow healthy whole grains or beans—the base of our culinary food pyramid—alongside their fruits and vegetables.

Starting from the simple but revolutionary concept of the garden “pancake patch,” Logsdon opens up our eyes to a whole world of plants that we wrongly assume only the agricultural “big boys” can grow. He succinctly covers all the basics, from planting and dealing with pests, weeds, and diseases to harvesting, processing, storing, and using whole grains. There are even a few recipes sprinkled throughout, along with more than a little wit and wisdom.”

Small-Scale Grain Raising is quite a good book and well-illustrated. I quite enjoyed the read and the ideas.

Get your copy here.


The Survival Gardener Book of the Week #7: Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture

gardening books

Sepp Holzer's PermacultureWelcome back to another Survival Gardener “book of the week” post!

Look at the plants in the book cover above.

It almost looks like where I live.

Rich, lush, tropical…

…yet all that amazing growth is taking place under some of the worst gardening conditions.

High altitude, sub-zero winters, poor soil, pine monocultures.

Sepp Holzer isn’t in Costa Rica. He’s located in the Austrian Alps… not a place known for its mild climate and rich soil.

His story is fascinating and his mind is always working.

As Infogalactic relates:

“Holzer was called the “rebel farmer” because he persisted, despite being fined and even threatened with prison,[2] with practices such as not pruning his fruit trees (unpruned fruit trees survive snow loads that will break pruned trees).[3] He has created some of the world’s best examples of using ponds as reflectors to increase solar gain for passive solar heating of structures, and of using the microclimate created by rock outcrops to effectively change the hardiness zone for nearby plants. He has also done original work in the use of Hügelkultur and natural branch development instead of pruning (see Fruit tree pruning) to allow fruit trees to survive high altitudes and harsh winters.

He is currently conducting permaculture (“Holzer Permaculture“) seminars both at his Krameterhof farm and worldwide, while continuing to work on his alpine farm. His expanded farm now spans over 45 hectares of forest gardens, including 70 ponds, and is said to be the most consistent example of permaculture worldwide. In the past he has experimented with many different animals. As a result of these experiments, there is a huge role for animals in Holzer Permaculture. For example, Holzer is using pigs to dig new beds. This is a very effective way of digging, as the only thing he has to do is to throw some corn and fruit on the spot he wants dug up. A couple of days later, he can bring the pigs back to their enclosure and plant new plants in the bed. Holzer is able to successfully grow his plants without using any fertilizer.”

In his book, Holzer talks about dealing with problematic government officials, working with trees inside complete ecosystems, building simple but excellent shelters with logs and other found materials, cultivating mushrooms and livestock and more. It’s inspiring, even if you don’t share his climate (which I obviously don’t).

Sepp has also experimented extensively with creating microclimates, which is a particular fascination of mine.

If you are looking for ideas, love permaculture, appreciate genius or all of the above, pick up a copy of Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture. It’s excellent.


The Survival Gardener Book of the Week #5: Creating a Forest Garden

gardening books

I’ve always loved wandering through the woods and breathing in the damp, oxygen-rich air, fragrant with the aroma of fungi and growing things.

A forest is almost like a large, multi-faceted organism. It recycles nutrients, holds together the soil, provides myriad nooks and crannies for animal and insect life, breaks down rocks into soil, brings up water from deep beneath the earth and provides man with fruits and nuts, wood, game and an escape from the blazing sun.


With some clever planning, a forest can be constructed deliberately to maximize food production while still serving the many other functions of a wild system.

That’s where food forests come in.

I’ve read extensively on the food forest concept and helped build multiple food forests in my home state of Florida.

Here in the tropics, I have plans for a new one – eventually – but even if you don’t live in a warm climate, you can create a marvelous and edible forest garden.

After all, Robert Hart planted the first and most famous forest garden in Shropshire, England.

The tropics may be loaded with a massive array of species, yet temperate regions also support stunning forests.

For cutting edge research with temperate food forests, it’s hard to beat the work of Martin Crawford. His book Creating a Forest Garden is an inspiration for gardeners in colder climates.

Creating_A_Forest_GardenIt’s a hefty hardcover book. The kind of book you’ll want to leave on your coffee table for rainy days when you can’t get outside and garden.

Crawford covers groundcovers, shrubs, canopy species, fungi, insectary plants, planning and lots more.


The only downside to this book, in my opinion, is that Crawford succumbs to the climate change fear-mongering which has been pushed on us relentlessly over the last few decades.

Of course, if that sort of thing worries you, planting a forest garden is a good way to create a more stable ecosystem long term. It’s certainly a good way to mitigate heat and cold, floods and drought. Forests can take a bigger beating than say, a field of sweet corn can.

Climate aside, the knowledge and ideas in this book are worth the price of admission – I’m glad to have a copy – Martin Crawford knows his plants and their uses as well as how to make them work together in a forest garden.

Get your copy here.


The Survival Gardener Book of the Week #4: Perennial Vegetables

gardening books

Imagine planting a vegetable garden once: perennial vegetables allow you do do just that.

I fell in love with the idea of perennial vegetables years ago when I discovered the ability asparagus has to come back year after year.

That doesn’t mean I had success growing it – not in Florida, at least – but the idea of planting something and getting harvests again and again was appealing to me.

Unlike beans, tomatoes, corn, broccoli, lettuce and the many other vegetables most of us rush to plant in the spring, then rush to harvest in their season, perennial vegetables allow the gardener to pace himself.

My Perennial Vegetable Journey


Sweet potatoes were the first perennial vegetable I had luck with. Though normally grown as an annual, they’re perennial in South Florida where I grew up.

I was in charge of taking care of a neighbor’s lovely yard for a year while she and her husband and daughter lived on their houseboat in some exotic port. She said “if anything dies, just fill in the space with something nice.”

When some of the petunias gave up, I planted sweet potatoes in her front planter.

They rapidly took over, filling the space with green rambling vines.

Mrs. Campbell was not happy with me when she returned home. The potatoes were harvested and she replanted ornamentals… but something funny happened. Vines kept popping back up. Every little piece of root left in the ground sprouted.

I think it took her a year to eradicate them completely.

But hey – that’s easy food, right? Maybe it wasn’t in the right place (sorry, Mrs. Campbell) but they are a wonderful perennial vegetable.

The Book to End all Perennial Vegetable Books


Toensmeier book perennial vegetablesWhen I discovered Eric Toensmeier’s book Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy-to-Grow Edibles I spent hours reading and thinking about the possibilities.

And then I started hunting down and planting many of them.

I’ve grown chaya and kangkong, horseradish and yacon, Chinese yams and Chinese water chestnut… there’s a wonderful world of perennial vegetables once you get started.

Perennial Vegetables is a great book, filled with excellent research and a mouth-watering variety of long-term edibles – many of which will be entirely new to the reader.

Some are temperate species, many are tropical, and many will grow in-between climates.

Eric has grown many of these vegetables in his Massachusetts garden and I grew many of them in Florida.

There are selections for shade and for water gardens. There are beans and roots and leaves and shoots and plenty of great ideas.

If you don’t own this book and you love the idea of planting a garden that lasts and lasts and lasts, I recommend you get a copy and get inspired.

This book is well worth the low price of admission – you’ll pay it back in spades after planting some of these prolific perennials.

I wouldn’t be without it.


The Survival Gardener Book of the Week #3: Mini Farming

gardening books

Welcome back to The Survival Gardener Book of the Week!

Last week we covered Herrick Kimball’s inspiring garden ideas book… and this week, we’re continuing the series with a very popular gardening book.

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett Markham is a non-stop seller.

mini farmingIt just never, ever stops selling.

And there’s a reason for that: it’s a dream of many to become self-sufficient; however, they think it takes a lot of space.

Markham’s ideas are based on everything from permaculture to Square Foot Gardening and you’re certain to be impressed by the small amount of space in which he manages to grow tons of food (literally).

Markham also covers chickens and has a section on how to build a simple homemade chicken plucker.

For those of us who are deep into theory and have read widely across the gardening spectrum, Mini Farming reads more as a synthesis of ideas and methods into a successful backyard farming operation.

Brett writes on his website:

“Mini Farming is not a hobby. It is undertaken with a specific economic objective. Unlike a garden, even if the food is produced only for your household, it is run like a business. By that I mean that conscientious efforts are made to adopt methods and materials that minimize costs and labor while maximizing productivity.

Unlike industrial agriculture, the focus in a Mini Farm is sustainability. The whole idea is to move food production local; so outside inputs are minimized. An industrial farm might adopt a labor-intensive method that makes economic sense only because of the ability to import immigrant labor at $2/hour; or it might adopt a fertilizer-intensive approach that only makes sense with a specific variety of a given crop. Mini farming focuses on building and then maintaining long-term soil fertility using natural processes. By doing this, even if there is no fertilizer to be had or a specific plant variety becomes unavailable, your food output isn’t compromised.

The idea, too, is self-sufficiency. The future holds economic turmoil from a lot of different directions and the impacts and timing are unpredictable. You want to be able to supply a vital necessity for yourself and your family without being inordinately dependent on materials being trucked in from 1500 miles away or shipped on a slow boat from China. The more you can do yourself, the better.”

I like that approach.

As the book description reads:

Mini Farming describes a holistic approach to small-area farming that will show you how to produce 85 percent of an average family’s food on just a quarter acre—and earn $10,000 in cash annually while spending less than half the time that an ordinary job would require.”

It really is a cool system. Get the book on Amazon here.


The Survival Gardener Book of the Week #2: The Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners

gardening books

Last week I told you why you should get Gardening When it Counts by Steve Solomon.

This week, we’ll cover a book by another one of my mentors – a man I’m also lucky enough to call a friend.

Let’s face the dirty truth: gardening books are often boring. And good gardening ideas are few and far between.

Sure, there’s the occasional laughter-inducing tome, such as Ruth Stout’s epic Gardening Without Work… or the infectious enthusiasm for geometric horticultural engineering found in Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening.

But most gardening books do little to stir the mind.

How many time do we need to be told the proper C/N ratio of compost? Or the spacing of beans? Or the cold-tolerance of kale.


We Gooders are looking for more. We need the burning vision of a Sepp Holzer to stir us… or the green vistas of Geoff Lawton’s food forest Edens.

Today’s book nestles in the sweet spot somewhere between the down-to-earth and the skyward-reaching tendrils of imagination.

If you’re looking for gardening ideas, this is the book for you.

This book = pure idea generation

Herrick Kimball is the inventor of the Whizbang Chicken Plucker, the Whizbang Wheel Hoe, the Whizbang Cider Press the Whizbang Garden Cart and he’s the maker of Classic American Clothespins that are better than their high-strung ancestors.

He also runs the excellent blog Upland Gardener… and he’s now started a regular vlog on his YouTube channel titled This Agrarian Life.

But… on to this week’s book!

I first had the chance to read The Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners during the cold days of winter back in 2014 and found it to be a great inspiration for the upcoming gardens of 2015.

Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners Cover

This is truly a book of ideas. If you’re a DIY person, a dreamer, a tinkerer or an experimenter… Kimball sets forth a big batch of homemade and home-tested ideas and basically says “Here – take these gifts and build with them and on them!”

Gardening ideas covered include remarkably inexpensive and sturdy T-post trellises, tri-grown carrots, refurbishing antique garden hoes (which I have done myself with great success!), creating biochar, building solar pyramids, siphon-tube rain barrels and a lot more.

Along with the many ideas and profuse illustrations, Kimball includes snippets and essays from vintage gardening books, letters, almanacs and bulletins. The wisdom of the past twines through the pages, reflecting Kimball’s Christian Agrarian philosophy of working with his hands and caring for the land generationally.

Mineralization, tool design, insect control – the gardening ideas are introduced to the reader one after the other, daring him to set down the book and get out in the workshop or garden with a brilliant new plan.

The Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners is my kind of book – and I think you’ll like it too.

You can get a copy here.