Ever a fan of reference books I was delighted to see Timber Press had published The Encyclopedia of Herbs, subtitled with the promise to be A Comprehensive Reference to Herbs of Flavor and Fragrance. Well qualified authors Arthur Tucker, professor of botany and Thomas Debaggio, founder of an herb farm and nursery, do not disappoint. It is both interesting and useful that the book focuses on culinary herbs, as this eliminates the sometimes burdensome and overwhelming task of identifying the medicinal values of the thousands of plants we have available to us for healing. What is also most constructive is that the book is highly readable, even though based in solid sciences. However this observation, taken from the introduction, will kindle the heart of gardening readers.
“We rely on botanists and agricultural scientists for an understanding of herbs and their cultivation, and we believe their research provides useful guidelines, but it is not infallible and should not be read as the last word on the subject. Every spring brings new revelations to the observant gardener, as well as to the careful scientists.”
The Encyclopedia of Herbs is arranged in two large sections. The first provides a very pragmatic overview of how to grow, harvest and preserve herbs. This will appeal to all those now engaging in growing one’s own food so often without the benefit of family members on hand to pass along how we do that exactly. And I am very much looking forward to utilizing the second section, which is an excellent guide which will vastly assist me in identifying, cultivating, caring for and using the herbs I’m most likely to use in the kitchen. At present I always have on hand, throughout the year, rosemary and oregano. I’d have to say other efforts, at, say, sage, and thyme, have not been as successful, though, granted, part of that was the aggressive nature of the oregano which has not only taken over the very large pot it’s in, but has now spread itself at the foot of my arugula and chard. Good to know! So I have yet a lot to learn, dear readers, in this department. How about you?
Following are some of the illustrations that grace The Encyclopedia of Herbs. You will find this book contains all the herbs you are familiar with, offering a good starting point, and then many herbs the authors are inviting us to consider using, and why. I think this book could keep us busy for a long time. It’s certain to take its place beside Back to Eden (old favorite) as an invaluable addition to my garden library.
I learned this year from the gardener at Frey Winery that you can take cuttings from this plant, and I tried, unsuccessfully, but it’s one I want to establish in the coming year. I adore the tea in the evening. If you are not familiar, it’s extremely pleasantly aromatic.
I personally associate calendula with healing salves. This informative book tells me it is called poet’s marigold in England. And who knew this?
“The carotenoid-rich yellow to orange petals of this annual daisy were once used to color butter, cheeses, and custards and to thicken soups and add a pleasant taste to salads, and to substitute for expensive imported saffron.”
I should here mention that one of the fascinating aspects of this book is that when a plant is listed we are then given the name of the plant in various languages! Thus coriander is also listed as:
How thoughtful! I love this! I’m always struggling to translate plants into Spanish. Now I won’t have to. Thank you, authors!
I think I will have best success if my sage is given its own pot. I’m reading it cannot stand frost, so looks like it will have to be mightily protected in winter, or grown as an annual. Boo hoo hoo.
And here is my own precious and endeared rosemary.
One way to get hooked on rosemary is to purchase those shorn (but fragrant) rosemary “Christmas trees.” I have at least one of those. (It’s in a pot.) Once you grow it you will wonder why it took you so long and you will never go without again. Trust me.
I am wishing each and every one of you a Happy New Year. These are the days we are planning our gardens, dreaming of what we will create when the sun’s warmth returns and we can manifest what’s been brewing in our creative minds. I think you will find that The Encyclopedia of Herbs will inspire and guide you into new rich realms you had only begun to explore, adding to your culinary skills and to the very essence of your lives.
Love and gardening blessings,
Posted on December 31st, 2009 by Kathryn
Filed under: Book Notes