Book review: Root to Bloom: A Modern Guide to Whole Plant Use by Mat Pember and Jocelyn Cross

17 June 2019 by

The message of Root to Bloom is clear and entirely fitting for the zeitgeist.

"When it comes to fruit, vegetables and herbs, we desperately need to revise our perspective of edibility," say Mat Pember and Jocelyn Cross, the Australian authors of this new tome. "So many edible parts of common plants are needlessly discarded."

It is for this reason that the duo advocate root-to-bloom eating, following on from the revival of nose-to-tail eating among restaurants in recent decades. Not only is it eminently sensible from a sustainable and resourceful viewpoint, but it also opens up a whole world of culinary possibilities.

For instance, coriander is generally used for its leaves and seeds, but its flowers are also edible and taste sweet, while the stems and roots have a more powerful flavour. Or who knew that parsley roots have a delicate flavour that is a cross between a carrot and celeriac with hints of parsley and turnip?

This is a book that should be read for the knowledge it imparts about the versatility of produce that comes into every kitchen. The recipes are limited, but there are some gems, from the roots and shoots chicken curry (featuring a fresh curry paste made from leftover produce in the vegetable garden) to carrot frond chimichurri to serve over grilled meat or fish. And when it comes to desserts, the leaves of fruit trees and bushes are particularly useful, such as a cream of blackcurrant leaves, which offers a subtle hint of the fruit.

Cross and Pember are not chefs – Cross is a supplier of edible flowers to restaurants and Pember is a gardening author who runs the Little Veggie Patch Co, a business which helps people grow their own food – but their passion for ensuring that we no longer think of plants as being one-dimensional is undisputed. And the benefit is in the eating – as they say: "By enjoying the whole plant, we experience a whole new spectrum of flavour and texture that would otherwise end up in the compost bin."

Root to Bloom: A Modern Guide to Whole Plant Use, by Mat Pember and Jocelyn Cross (Hardie Grant Books, £20)

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