Master Gardener’s Bookshelf: HomeGrown Pantry

The Homegrown Pantry:  A Gardener’s Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amount by Barbara Pleasant.

By Susan Wilhelm, Extension Master Gardener

As a vegetable gardener, I generally try to plant just what my husband and I can eat. Some things end up in the freezer when there is a good harvest, but it is not something for which I plan. However, I may have to rethink my planting strategy after reading The Homegrown Pantry:  A Gardener’s Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amount by Barbara Pleasant.



Homegrown Pantry is a guide to planning, growing, and preserving vegetables, fruits, and herbs, with the goal of eating from your garden throughout the year. Pleasant begins by discussing her gardening philosophy and tips for deciding what to grow. Next, she provides detailed instruction for preservation techniques including cold storage, freezing, canning, dehydrating, pickling, and fermenting.  (There are also instructions for making fruit wine and recommendations for herbs to use in herbal tea.)

The last three chapters profile 55 vegetables, fruits, and herbs which Pleasant says are likely to grow well using organic practices and are easy to preserve. For each she indicates how much to plant depending on how many people you want to feed (with extra for preserving), varieties she particularly likes, and the best preservation methods.  She also provides general information on when and how to plant, maintenance strategies, common pests and diseases, and harvesting techniques.

Each chapter includes wonderful color photographs that are enjoyable to look at in and of themselves; for example, illustrating what a fruit or vegetable looks like in full growth, demonstrating steps in a preservation technique, or showing what a fruit or vegetable looks like when fresh from the garden.

Pleasant is the author of several organic gardening books and was a featured speaker at Virginia Tech’s 2020 Master Gardener College. She wants her readers to succeed and provides lots of practical advice and tools. For example, if you only have space for a few swiss chard plants, she recommends white-stemmed varieties such as “Fordhook Giant” as being more productive and less likely to bolt than those with colored stems. There are “Harvest Day Recipes” for using a lot of produce quickly, and timelines for when to eat what you have preserved.

Pleasant also is realistic about the time it takes to maintain a garden and to preserve what you grow. For instance, she provides time estimates for different preservation methods and a sample seasonal calendar to help with planning so not everything you grow needs to be processed in the same season (or if it does, you know what you are getting into).

Flat-leaf or Italian parsley can be used fresh, dried, or frozen by itself or in a pesto base.
Pleasant recommends six to eight plants for a year’s supply. Photo © Elaine Mills

Whether you grow vegetables, herbs, or fruits and berries, Homegrown Pantry is a useful resource for gardeners (even those with limited space) to get the most from their garden by making informed choices about what and how much to plant and the best preservation techniques.

Homegrown Pantry (Storey Publishing, 2017) won a Garden Writers Association 2018 Silver Award of Achievement and a Forward Indies 2017 Silver Award. It is available at the Alexandria Public Library, the Arlington Public Library, and from national booksellers

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