October 05, 2022 at 11:05am | Suzanne Clark

Claire Ratinon fell in love with digging the earth on a rooftop in New York City. She spent two seasons volunteering at Brooklyn Grange, the leading rooftop farming business in the U.S. “It was superproductive, not hobbyism but feeding the community, supplying restaurants,” she says.

She moved back to London and opted to give up her office job to grow organic produce for the restaurants of famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi. And then, just before the pandemic, she escaped to the countryside of East Sussex, for a garden, and chickens to call her own.

Ratinon, 38, details this switch, from city to country, and all that learning about plants has helped her realize about her inner self, in her new book, Unearthed: On Race and Roots, and How the Soil Taught Me I Belong.

“The book has taken me down the road of looking into my heritage, and ancestry within that,” she says.

“It is my journey into the work of growing food, but moves into the history of Mauritius where my family are from, the stories of my parents, and explores the issues of race and roots and belonging,” she says. “All of those things are for me intertwined in the relationships that we have with the plant world and wider ecosystem around us at large.”

Ratinon’s own reading about plants is broad, from step-by-step guides that she returns to over and over for support, to memoirs that gave her the push she needed to write Unearthed. Here are her must-reads for anyone interested in reconnecting with the land.



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