Veggie Power

Veggie Power
Olaf Hajek and Annette Roeder
Prestel

Award-winning illustrator, Olaf Hajek serves up a veritable feast of deliciously inventive visual stories to relish alongside author, Annette Roeder’s taste-bud tingling verbal platters of mind-boggling textual information. Just the thing to satisfy this vegan reviewer despite her aversion to several of the root vegetables that grace the pages of this large playful book. One of them being the parsnips that along with carrots, are the subject of the first spread. I was amazed to discover that members of the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra make use of these (as well as quite a few others featured herein) as musical instruments: imagine playing a carrot recorder or flute, for instance.

Over twenty vegetables are included in this culinary offering, but the author produces more than mere cooking related information: there are garnishings of historical and botanical tidbits, as well as sprinklings of health and healing- related facts.

One of my very favourite veggies is broccoli and I was vastly amused to read that it’s celebrated on not just one but two days: there’s St. Broccoli Day on March 18th and National We Love Broccoli Day just four days later on 22nd. 

I’m also extremely partial to both spinach and chard which share a spread, as well as a place in our garden. My mouth is watering at the prospect of those yummy leaves that take centre stage in Hajek’s energetic illustration of same. 

If being strictly accurate, there are a few interlopers at this veggie fest. for the tomato, as well as the peppers and chilli are botanically classified as fruit. However why exclude them when they’re usually served as vegetables?

A bountiful harvest is assuredly the result of this collaboration, albeit a lusciously quirky one. Food fun for everyone.

Flower Power : The Magic of Nature’s Healers

Flower Power: The Magic of Nature’s Healers
Olaf Hajek and Christine Paxmann
Prestel

In this glorious spring bouquet, illustrator Olaf Hajek and author Christine Paxman offer art and information about seventeen flowers.

Because of some of my personal interests and experiences I was immediately drawn to this large format book: the couple of pre-uni. years I spent working in the herbarium at Kew Gardens, as well as my interest in the healing properties of plants in relation to Ayurveda, and the courses I took in aromatherapy and massage. That’s as well as an abiding fascination with the botanical world in general.

Every one of Hajek’s full-page illustrations is simply stunning in its beauty and witty detail so it’s virtually impossible to choose favourites – there’s magic in them all. Indeed, as Christine Paxman writes ‘In many old children’s books, the bellflower is described as a magic flower.’

However as a frequent visitor to India, I was instantly attracted to the “ginger’ illustration with its stylised dancer reminiscent of Indian miniatures. We read of ginger’s origins in India, China and other parts of Asia and of its many uses in cooking, in drinks and as a medicinal plant. Perhaps you didn’t know (I certainly not even considered it)) that in addition to its many healing benefits for humans, ginger root can be used to treat horses and other animals.

Many of us think of the Dandelion merely as a nuisance weed that’s nigh on impossible to get rid of. We might have sampled the leaves of Taxacarum in salads but I was surprised to read that the flowers can be used to make a jelly and the roots eaten, if roasted first. Moreover, the latex if extracted, can be used in rubber making.

‘Can a flower cure almost anything?’ This is one of Paxman’s introductory questions to Common Mallow. She goes on to answer that, as well as discussing its culinary uses, its uses as a dye and as a potential source of green energy.

You can dip in and savour every one of the entries: the conversational style of the text and outstanding art will fascinate, and perhaps prompt readers to dig deeper into some of the mysteries of the plant world.