Herbs have a lot of mysterious history, dating back to prehistoric times. Even back then, an herbalist would have needed a compendium of information to keep track of all the lore that was available regarding the propagation and use of herbs. Fortunately, today, these works of art, history and science are not written on stone tablets but come with beautiful illustrations and recipes attached.
Below is a list of books that hopefully will be useful and fun to read, as well as help to renew interests in herb gardening. Please note that my mention of these books does not represent an endorsement, but they are full of information that is good for the beginners as well as seasoned herb gardeners. I purposefully included a book that was printed in 1945, to show that not much has changed in the overall understanding of herbs. The latter books have beautiful and colorful pictures that were not available to authors of earlier time periods.
Beside each book that is pictured is a brief description of what you can expect. Enjoy!
A Kid's Herb Book is a wonderful book for the young and old written by Lesley Tierra. Firstpublished in 2000, and revised in 2009. There are many illustrations with simple explanations about herbs. There are songs that can be sung with kids, as well as stories to be read out loud. The book covered 16 herbs, not all commonly used like Comfrey, and Mullein. Recipes are included with each herb, but not all are for culinary uses. The book does not cover how to grow herbs.
The American Herbal by Stephen Orr is published in 2014. There are many colorful photographs of herbs, with accompanying description that covers origin, type, common names in addition to botanical names. Where applicable, recipes are given which include potential safety issues for culinary uses.
Also included are herbs that may have been exclusive to certain cultures, but now have become mainstreamed, such as Asafetida, Epazote, Ginseng, and Vietnamese coriander. This is a great book to use as a reference.
The Exotic Herbs by Carole Saville came out in 1997. The first part of the book is focused on growing techniques for indoors and outdoors herbs, and growing herbs in containers. There is a brief overview of propagation techniques, and a handy USDA Plant Hardiness map. For the rest of the book, herbs are grouped into "exotic" based on special attributes, ethnicity (popularity in certain cultures), and an array of hybrids, cultivars, and varieties of a common herb. The groups are the Alliums , the Basils, the Cilantros and similar herbs, the Fraises des Bois ( lavender, lemongrass), the Oregon mimics such as Perilla, Purslane, the Sages, and the Za'atars. Within each group is a section on how to grow these herbs, and culinary recipes.
Herb Gardening From the Ground Up by Sal Gilbertie and Larry Sheehan debuted in 2012. It is a great addition to the herb library. Information on different methods of herb propagation is discussed in detail.
There is a brief section describing common edible herbs, then half of the book is focused on many types of herb garden designs. There are enough samples in the book that it will not be hard to customize an herb garden specific to your needs.
Rosetta Clarkson is a well known name among herb enthusiasts. Herbs: Their Culture and Uses was published in 1942, yet many of the content remained relevant today. There is a list of 101 herbs, with a brief description and illustrations. The author covered harvesting, drying herbs, using herbs to make dyes, and herbal recipes for cooking.
This is a small, but representative example of the information available on herbs. Do your own search, to find the books that are right for you, and remember your friends and relatives this holiday season when researching fantastic books on these fantastic plants.
As for a little snack between reading, here is a recipe for Mixed Herb Crackers from The Herb Society of America's Essential Guide To Growing And Cooking With Herbs. Posted with permission.
MIXED HERB CRACKERS by Paula Weiss
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
4 tbsp. cold butter
1/4 c sour cream
|Salt for sprinkling
Combine dry ingredients. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Add herbs and mix well. Stir in sour cream and mix until the dough comes together. Divide in half and roll each piece into a sheet 1/8-inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and press lightly. Cut into 1/2-inch squares using a fluted edge cutter.
Place on baking sheet and pierce each cracker with a fork. Bake at 325F until just brown and firm.
Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container. Yields 24 crackers.