I concede immediately that, while I have attempted to make this volume unique in content and tone, I have, in truth, had a singularly superb model for it. In fact, I have been sorely tempted to entitle this work Eminent Vegetables, so highly do I esteem Lytton Strachy's brilliant Eminent Victorians, that early twentieth-century paragon of biographical brevity and wit. In it, Mr. Strachy serves up four brief, laserlike portraits of the Victorian luminaries Florence Nightingale, Cardinal Newman, General Gordon, and Dr. Manning. Each profile is as notable for its succinct and wry appraising tone as it is for its erudition, psychological insight, and historical elucidation. In a single stroke, Strachy managed to blow the academic dust off the art of biography, noting rather accurately that " . . . it is perhaps as difficult to write a good life as to live one."
In this volume my intention is to present you, the reader, with portraits not of famous personalities of our time, but of vegetables whose time I feel has come. Eminent vegetables. Entrancing vegetables. Heirloom and hybrid. Native and transplant. Seventy-five really superb vegetables in current culture that are as exciting for their physical beauty as they are for their taste. Today, the entire world is our horticultural oyster and, originating in every corner of the globe, each of these vegetables is possessed of both a savor and an aesthetic charm that would make the loveliest blossom hang its head. As well, each is entirely suited to American cultivation, yet most of these varieties are perhaps totally unknown to the laissez-faire gardener. In short, I feel that these are vegetables with which every serious American vegetable gardener should be acquainted.