Ask most people to talk about an everyday vegetable such as the carrot and they will probably use a couple of sentences to describe its colour and taste then grind to a halt. Not food writer Sophie Grigson, who now lives in Cumnor. In her recently published book Vegetables (Collins, £25) she fills three pages with enthusiastic references to this ubiquitous orange product that we eat raw and cooked, without repeating herself once.

And she doesn't bother to liken its smell to something else; Sophie describes it as it is, advising us to look for a "happy carrot", which is firm from tip to stem with a pleasing light, carroty smell. Following this advice has added a whole new dimension to my trips to the farmers' markets and well-stocked farm shops such as Millets. I had never thought of looking for happy carrots until I read Sophie's book. In fact, until reading Vegetables I had seldom given the humble carrot a second thought, though I admit to buying at least one bunch a week. Until turning to Page 19 of Vegetables, it was just another item, one I added to the shopping basket because of its colour and the ease with which it can be added to stews, casseroles and cakes.

Sophie gives similar treatment TO all the other vegetables we take for granted . Even potatoes which, as she points out, are now being sold by their varietal name by more and more outlets. She admits we may not be able to hold the specific attributes of ten types in our head at all times, but there's pleasure to be had in stumbling across one that we know tastes good. She says there is also pleasure to be had in discovering that while one potato variety is fluffy and dry fleshed, another is smoother and waxier and has a distinct undertone of almonds. Choosing the right potato for the job in hand is important.

Not all the vegetables dealt with are commonplace. Like her food writer mother Jane Grigson, she introduces us to the more exotic varieties that we may not be so familiar with. Jane, who won a wide audience because she was both an erudite and friendly writer, wrote her Vegetable Book in 1978. It detailed the history and romance of 75 vegetables. It appealed to both garden and food lovers, which is probably why this and many of the other books that Jane wrote are still in print.

Bringing out a book on the same subject as one of her mother's has not daunted Sophie, who in a warm, friendly manner frequently refers to Jane's methods for selecting vegetables. In the potato section, for example, she agrees that her mother was right to insist that one should always buy dirty potatoes. Sophie accepts that a thin jacket of dried-on soil seems to preserve the flavour to some extent, as it does with several root vegetables.

Moving to Oriental vegetables, Sophie gives us Chinese cabbage, while her mother listed it as Chinese leaf. The Chinese artichokes Jane included in her collection, which are in no way related to either globe artichokes or the Jerusalem artichoke, are a vegetable Sophie has chosen to ignore. Maybe this is because it's considered a novelty crop add yields very little in relation to the space it needs to grow.

Sophie does give us one of the windiest vegetables known to man, however - the knobbly Jerusalem artichoke - and the globe artichoke, which, as Sophie reminds us, grows so well in coastal regions, where they are exposed to salty sea winds. While Medley Manor Farm Pick-Your-Own, Binsey, is miles from the sea, they appear to grow extremely well in Oxfordshire, too, if the Gee family's summer offerings are anything to go by. Here is where Sophie fills her basket with this delicious spiky, thistle-like vegetable.

At home she plunges her whole artichokes head down in salted water for half an hour to loosen and flush out hidden insects, before snapping off the stems and rubbing the exposed flesh with a little lemon juice to diminish the browning. The delightful thing about globe artichokes is that they can be served whole, allowing us to pull off the outer leaves when they are tender, and enjoy those small nuggets of tender artichoke flesh at their base with oodles of melted butter or vinaigrette. The artichoke heart can also be enjoyed stripped of its leaves and served as a delectable summer starter.

Sophie admits that serving the heart alone means that all those tasty outer spikes have to be thrown into the compost bin, but there comes a point during the summer when they are so abundant that it's a price we should be prepared to pay.

If you would like to meet Sophie and hear more about her love of vegetables, you can to do so on Friday, March 23, when she will be taking part in the Oxford Literary Festival. She will be in conversation with radio producer (and food-lover) Ian Willox, from Clifton, near Deddington, who has been known to cook delicious artichoke dishes himself. You will find them in the Festival Room at 2pm - a good time because most of her audience will have had their lunch. No one should listen to Sophie speak without eating first, as she has a gift for bringing even the dullest dishes to life.

Sophie will also be at Oxfordshire's Children's Food Festival, on July 14 and 15 at the Northmoor Trust's conservation farm near Long Wittenham. She and Raymond Blanc are both festival patrons. Apart from staging a few cookery demonstrations there, which she hopes will inspire youngsters to have a go themselves, she will be anywhere and everywhere. You may even encounter her at the entrance collecting tickets if she is not in the fruit and vegetable tent.