The book is a compilation of a few different sorts of encyclopedic information: Guides to vegetables, herbs, berries, fruits, and nuts are all included. All 32 zones are included, too, so wherever you are in the West there will be notes for your area. In addition to richly illustrated and photographic guides to the vegetables, herbs, tropicals, and other edible foods, there are also some brief sections on bugs and other pests. There are lots of notes and helps on everything from starting plants to protecting them in bad weather. In short, all the things you'd expect from a basic garden handbook.
Of course, any garden handbook falls short of real experience; I remember being so frustrated by nearly every garden book, early on — why wouldn't it just tell me what to do? No book can truly substitute for hands-on work in the garden over several growing seasons. But this one definitely is very helpful.
The real highlight of this book for me though was the front section showing some inspiring small home gardens. These were gardens tucked into the verge between sidewalk and street, or between driveway and small home. They weren't sprawling truck gardens but compact, beautiful gardens designed for both nourishment and beauty. That's my own ultimate goal: an edible garden that fits aesthetically into the landscape. This book really encourages and promotes that, and I was very inspired by some of the included garden photos.
Obviously this isn't the handbook for you if you don't live west of the Mississippi (although it might be worth a check-out from the library just for the inspiring photos!). So our only remaining question is: Where's the Eastern book of edibles? Anyone have any tips or good recommendations for a Midwest or East Coast-specific gardening handbook? We hope there is one as nice as this.
• Find it: Western Garden Book of Edibles: The Complete A-Z Guide to Growing Your Own Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruits, $16.47 at Amazon