The Fresh Loaf

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Recommendations for good vegetable reference-ish book?

thihal123's picture

Recommendations for good vegetable reference-ish book?

I'm a fan of reference-ish type books for food. I don't have many cookbooks because recipes generally bore me. Even with bread books, the kinds I like are reference-ish types with some recipes. Recipes are okay, but I like to get the "theory" behind them. Recipes are easy to come by. The "theory" part isn't. I have the Oxford Companion to Food, a great reference book but it doesn't focus enough on vegetables. Can anyone recommend a reference-type of book for vegetables?

Qualities I'm looking for in this type of book would be:

  • good illustrations (in colour) of the different vegetables
  • a history of the vegetable (culture, history, geography)
  • some common ways to prepare them
  • things to watch out for when preparing them
  • how to pick out the good varieties
  • some nutritional facts about the vegetable
  • covers an extensive list of vegetables that are not only common in North American diets, but also Asian, African and European ones.

In browsing Amazon, I haven't yet found one that jumps out to me. Unfortunately, Oxford Companion doesn't produce a vegetable companion book, as far as I can tell.'s picture

Flash cooking by Laura Santtini may be a good alternative. On amazon Uk there is a video about the book also. Check it out!

thihal123's picture

Hmm...Flash Cooking is really a cookbook for a certain kind of diet lifestyle. It's not a reference book on vegetables.

genie's picture

I have often said that the last cookbook I would ever give up is my copy of America's Best Vegetable Recipes , selected and tested by the Food Editors of Farm Journal.

This book is more than a collection of recipes.  It is so well organized and chock full of valuable info (selection, storing, preserving, preparing,, etc.

There is a section on seasonings that gives the best pairing of herbs with each vegetable as well as  sauces and salad dressings for them.

The following link will take you to other comments on the book, available at Amazon. 


thihal123's picture

Aww...too bad it's no longer in print :( From just the title, it seems to focus on vegetables in America. I'm also interested in a wider range of vegetables from Asia, Africa, and Europe.

berryblondeboys's picture

I have this book and I see she also make a vegetables and spices companion book. Honestly, I can hardly imagine a more indepth book about food. No recipes at all. Just all about the particular fruit and seed (in the book I have).  It's 100% a reference book of fruits and seeds. Doesn't even say HOW to prepare it really, just in what ways they are used. Like, for lemon - as garnish, a few drops for stabilizer when added to fresh cream to be whipped, a few drops to meat as a tenderizer, etc. Each fruit/seed (and I'm assuming the same for the companion book) is given it's origins, hybrids, how it's grown, it's roots, cultivation, food uses, medical uses and much more.

thihal123's picture

Thanks! Looks like the vegetables book is not easy to come by. I'll try interlibrary loan, but I don't expect my public library to be able to get it. OCLC lists most copies of this book in academic libraries, and it's rare for an academic library to lend to a public library!

berryblondeboys's picture

Because of this thread, I just ordered the veggies one of this book (as I have the fruit one). I too like reference type books. I go to the asian market frequently and have NO IDEA what I'm looking at so often. Would be nice to know more. Plus, I already have over 100 food books, what's one more?

thihal123's picture

Let me know how you like that book! I borrowed the library's copy of National Geographic's Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World's Food Plants, and am quite disappointed in it. Can you believe that it has a one page entry titled "Asian Greens" and it lumps basically all sorts of "Asian Greens" together without much explanation. Not a very comprehensive guide.

jbaudo's picture

Mark Bittman has a book called "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian".  It reads like a reference book with lots of recipes and suggestions.  BUT there are no photos just a few illustrations when necessary.  It is very thorough and comprehensive (and large).  He goes in to great detail about almost any vegetable you can think of and other dishes that are vegetarian as well.  I am not a vegetarian but wanted something more specific to veg because most of my cookbooks focus on meat and desserts.  The library probably has it.  I would recommend checking it out if you can first since it is a bit pricey.

joyfulbaker's picture

I love Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  She has recipes all right, but much more than that, with each vegetable or vegetable family (ex: "greens") treated separately with varieties to choose from, storage suggestions, and suggestions for spices, etc. to go with them.  I've found all the recipes to be tried and true.  In addition to the section on individual veggies, there are categories for the many recipes (i.e., soups, salads, grains, pastas,gratins, breads, desserts, etc.).  It's one of my "go-to" books just as Hamelman's Bread serves that purpose for bread recipes and education.

Doc.Dough's picture

Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables : A Commonsense Guide by Elizabeth SchneiderAmazon has it in paperback only.

Red5's picture

Vegetables by 40 Great French Chefs - Patrick Mikanowski


The Natural Cuisine of Georges Blanc


Out of my 75 or so cook/food books, these two absolutely stand out for their beauty and information. 


thihal123's picture

Thanks for the recommendation. They look like good cookbooks, but aren't really reference books on vegetables.

I wish Oxford Companion would come out with something like Oxford Companion to Vegetables. Their Oxford Companion to Food is really quite excellent, but of course, because it's about food as a whole, the entries for vegetables are necessarily short.

HeidiH's picture

I know you were looking for a book but I decided to wander Wikipedia to see how it holds up as a vegetable encyclopedia.  Start with the "List of Culinary Vegetables" page.  Wow.  Crowd sourcing blows me away sometimes.