Go ahead, play with your food, Niki Jabbour seems to be saying in her new book, "Groundbreaking Food Gardens" (Storey Publishing, $19.95, paper).
The author of the bestselling "The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener" and host of the radio show "The Weekend Gardener" enlisted leading gardeners and designers to contribute themed food garden plans to "change the way you grow your garden."
They delivered handsomely. The food gardens in this illustrated book, subtitled "73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden," are inventive, inspiring and instructive — and creatively named.
There's the Fig-Pig Patio for lovers of the tender fruit. An Eggs & Everything garden that incorporates backyard chickens into the plan. And how about a Chicago Hot-Dog Garden that includes all the fixin's, including tomatoes, white onions and white mustard?
Amy Stewart, author of "The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks," and Susan Morrison offer up a plan for a Cocktail Garden that contains herbs, fruits and flowers to make syrups and infusions for handcrafted cocktails.
Chile pepper authority Dave DeWitt suggests mild, medium hot, really hot, super hot and tasty ornamental peppers for a Chile Lover's Garden and gives tips on how to grow them.
Neighborly types will enjoy Chris McLaughlin's Front-Yard Suburban Plan, which combines decorative elements — checkerboard pavers, crushed granite pathways and archway trellises — with fruit trees and other edibles to tempt passersby.
Asian vegetables get their due, as do lettuces, garlic and heirloom vegetables. Other sections focus on biodynamic growing, microbe-friendly planting and landscaping to attract and support bees.
Jabbour's book is a smooth read with lots of stories and advice. Pretty illustrations by Anne Smith, Elayne Sears and Mary Ellen Carsley make the garden plans easy to visualize and a pleasure to peruse.