Monday, December 16, 2019

Author Interview: Amy Goldman

Author and gardener Amy Goldman is an zealous advocate for heirloom seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Her latest book, The Melon, is an expanded revamp of a book on melons she published years ago. This new version is glorious. It should be a top pick for gardener gift giving.

I got a copy of The Melon and was so enchanted by the pictures and melon stories that I immediately ordered copies of Amy's Heirloom Tomato and Compleat Squash books. AND I DO NOT GARDEN! I just love these books.

Amy recently talked with Rose City Reader about her new book, heirloom varieties, and all things melon:

What are “heirloom” vegetables?

Heirloom vegetables are oldies but goodies. Varieties of value that breed true from seed and can be handed down to the next generation. Standard and open-pollinated, heirlooms differ from modern F1 hybrids, which don’t breed true from harvested seed.

What is your background and how did it lead you to write your book, The Melon?

I grew up in a family that celebrated fruits and vegetables. Melons and watermelons are a lifelong love and calling. Ten years after my first melon book was published, I decided to write another, since I’d grown and learned a lot more.

Really, watermelons are not melons? Please explain.

Melons and watermelons are vining crops that belong to two different species within the cucurbitaceae or gourd family of plants. Recent phylogenetic studies show that the cucurbits most likely originated in Asia over 70 million years ago. Various lineages found their way time and again to different continents by transoceanic long-distance dispersal. Picture gourds afloat! Watermelon’s more recent place of origin in Africa; the wild progenitor of melon has been found growing in India.

What else will readers learn from your book?

The Melon teaches you everything you need to know about growing and harvesting melons and watermelons; picking and choosing the best specimens in the market; saving and sourcing seeds; and using melons in cookery (there are twenty wonderful recipes included). Readers will learn about 125 rare and fascinating varieties from all over the world. Their stories are as diverse as the fruits themselves.

The photographs in your book are luscious. And you’ve worked with photographer Victor Schrager on some of your other gorgeous books, including The Heirloom Tomato and The Compleat Squash. Tell us a little about your collaboration with Victor.

It’s been a tremendous privilege and pleasure to work side by side with Victor Schrager during the past twenty years. From day one we’ve been on the same page. Together we’ve created four books on heirloom vegetables that celebrate their beauty, flavor, history, and diversity. Victor remains amazingly fresh in his approach. How he works his magic with my homegrown veggies still boggles my mind!

In addition to writing about heirloom fruits and vegetables, you advocate for seed saving and plant breeding in general. Can you give us a thumbnail explanation?

I’ve been a food gardener since my teen years. The more heirlooms I grew over time, the more devoted I became to their conservation. Heirloom fruits and vegetables are treasures worth knowing, growing, and saving. About thirty years ago I became a member of the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), which is the nation’s premier non-profit seed saving group based in Decorah, Iowa, its mission is to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but engendered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. I eventually joined the SSE board then morphed into a special advisor.

Heirlooms are the building blocks that plant breeders need to make further crop improvements and keep us well supplied with nourishing and delicious food. Numerous melon and watermelon varieties featured in The Melon hold great promise (or have already proven their worth) in breeding more resilient “climate smart” melons worldwide.

What are you working on now?

Victor and I are working on a book on peppers and another on squash.



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