By Amy Goldman
Photographs by Victor Schrager
With Melons for the Passionate Grower Amy Goldman and her literary partner, photographer,Victor Schrager, introduced the world to a new genre of horticultural literature and a brilliant new style of communicating this genre. The genre can best be described as Dedicated Vegetable Studies where within the covers of a single book, a vegetable type is comprehensively described, historically analyzed and a multiplicity of varieties discussed. The communication style can best be described as "enhancing understanding by visually exploring the literary topic as art".
Now what does all this gibberish mean and how does it apply to Melons for the Passionate Grower? This book is the definitive study of the most popular, most succulent, most fragrant, most interesting and most historically significant melons that we know today. In its 176 pages, the stories of 100 melons are told with details about their size, shape, weight, sugar content, time to maturity and seed sources. The book begins with a primer for melon growers including how to know when to harvest, the effect of refrigeration, how to grow, how to save the seeds and how to hand pollinate. There is a brief section which provides the reader with some well-tested melon recipes like candied watermelon, melon soup and pickled watermelon rind. This section is followed by a brief history of the melon, in general. Then the book launches into a 126 page encyclopedia of melons where the history, legends, peculiarities and exceptional qualities of each melon are discussed in detail and with a literary richness rarely encountered in horticultural writing: for example, describing the Petit Gris de Rennes melon as "the champagne of French cantaloupes".
The text is rich, detailed, easy to read, carefully researched and comprehensive, but it is the partnering of this splendid content with the unbelievable photography that distinguishes this book. Unless you own one of the other Goldman-Schrager books, you have NEVER seen vegetable/fruit photographs like these. Each melon "vignette" is accompanied by at least one full page still life photograph. The melons are staged against a background of muted colors of nature. Each fruit is resting against or on top of some natural pedestal like a brick of marble or a slab of mahogany or a block of slate. The melons have been freshly harvested with dried vines and/or leaves still attached and then sliced to show the vivid colors and sugar laden juices dripping from the flesh. My favorite is the exquisitely simple arrangement on page 33 of the Early Frame Prescott cantaloupe.
I think Melons for the Passionate Grower is one of those "must have" books. At Landreth everyone uses this book as a resource to better understand melons, but we often refer to it when customers visit to help facilitate their understanding and knowledge of melons. Even if you are not a gardener or you have never grown melons and never intend to, if you love beautiful things and you cherish the beauty that nature has blessed us with, you will treasure this book.