If the board game Trivial Pursuit were based on cocktails, Stewart would be the player to beat, hands down. In her new book, The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create The World's Great Drinks, the author takes the reader around the world exploring the history of our favorite libations when it comes to the plants, flowers, trees and even fungi that have served as their sources. Stewart's earlier books include Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities and Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army and Other Diabolical Insects. She is the co-founder of the Garden Rant blog and a contributing editor to the magazine Fine Gardening. She and her husband live in northern California, where they own an antiquarian bookstore.
What's on your nightstand?
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It's a beautiful book. You're never quite sure whether or not you're reading a fairy tale. You never know if it's real or not real. It's very mysterious. She handles everything very carefully.
If you wanted to encourage a person to consider growing their own fruits and vegetables, or just to take up gardening, is there a particular book you'd recommend?
Grow the Good Life: Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise by Michele Owens. It's a short, highly readable book. She really makes an argument on why all of us ought to grow our own food and how you can look at taking care of a vegetable garden as part of running a household. She makes a good case, better than most, because she's got three kids, a spouse that travels. If she can do it, anybody can. She's very smart about it. She's got really insightful things to say and, it's true, a lot of advice given to gardeners over the years is misguided. Think about it, sometimes advice for farmers who are working on a large scale makes no sense at all for gardeners at home to follow. It might make you think differently than you do now.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.