scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Leslie Land, 66; chef, author, food and garden columnist

Ms. Land wrote the syndicated newspaper column “Good Food” for 20 years.Bill Bakaitis

NEW YORK — Leslie Land, a food and garden writer who published “The 3,000 Mile Garden,” a collection of her correspondence with the British horticulturalist Roger Phillips that became a series on public television, died on Aug. 10 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She was 66.

The cause was complications of breast cancer, said her husband, Bill Bakaitis.

Ms. Land wrote the syndicated newspaper column “Good Food” for 20 years and wrote more than 500 articles, including the Garden Q&A column, for The New York Times from the 1980s until 2008. She also wrote two cookbooks, one of which, “Reading Between the Recipes,” proffered recipes and cooking tips embedded in charming stories.


Much of her writing was informed by her life in the coastal town of Cushing, Maine, where she had lived since the early 1970s and become a locavore before the term existed.

“From the balmy end of July to the frosts of mid-September, wild blueberries blanket the state of Maine,” she wrote in a 1986 article. “The sweet, sharp fruit is everywhere — underfoot whether you’re on the cliffs of Monhegan Island or exploring the meadows and bogs at the foot of Mount Katahdin, 10 steps away if you’re strolling down a dusty country lane, or as close as the pickup trucks dotting the shoulder if you’re driving down Route 1.”

“The 3,000 Mile Garden: An Exchange of Letters on Gardening, Food and the Good Life” stemmed from a long-distance friendship Ms. Land struck up with Phillips after the two met at a mushroom conference in New Hampshire in 1989.

They began corresponding about their gardens, his in central London and hers in a corner of Cushing. Phillips, who is also a photographer, showed one of her letters to an editor, who suggested that he and Ms. Land collaborate on a book.


Their letters form a collection of gardening tips and recipes that was first published in England in 1992. It sold well there, and an expanded version was released in the United States in 1996. Later that year a six-part series featuring both authors cooking and gardening was broadcast on PBS and the BBC.

Leslie Mann Land was born in Reading, Pa., and grew up on a farm. She attended and boarded at Kingswood School Cranbrook, a private school outside Detroit, then went to the University of California, Berkeley.

In Berkeley she became one of the first chefs at Chez Panisse, the renowned farm-to-table restaurant, shortly after Alice Waters opened it in 1971. She started a catering company when she moved to Maine but gave it up once her writing took off.

In addition to her husband, she leaves a brother, David; a sister, Claudia Land; a stepdaughter, Celia Bakaitis; and a step-granddaughter.