Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review - Edible Herbs by Charles G.W. Smith

I take herb books out of the library, I order them on inter library loan, I ask the research librarians to hunt them down sometimes from libraries outside our district.  I do this because I have so many books that I want to sample anything new before I decide to buy, otherwise I will have a library that overflows the shelves and still doesn't give me the information I need when I need it.

This month I found a book I had not ordered before because I thought it would repeat other bigger books I already owned.

The book is The Beginner's Guide to Edible Herbs: 26 Herbs Everyone Should Grow & Enjoy by Charles G.W. Smith (2010: Storey Publishing, Mass.)

I confused the author with someone else which was why I ordered it at all, but I was wonderfully surprised by my serendipitous error.

The book is slim, easy to carry with you, and measures about 6 x 9 inches.  It is filled with 145 pages of color images and information.

I am not sure if I like the book because of the 26 herbs highlighted it included both Lemon Balm and Lemon Verbena (a sorely under recommended herb in my opinion) or if it was the clever headings on the informational pages associated with each herb, like A Cabbage Lover (with dill) or Bury Your Nose in the Leaves (for Hyssop).  It could also have been the quick, easy-to-follow recipes or the way topics like making marinades, dressings or vinegars were incorporated into the text with an easy flow that matched the herbs presented around them.

As I spent a bus and train ride home one night reading through it, I found that not only was there growing information, but clear concise use and preservation information as well as medicinal traits, and little "aside" boxes on how to make Herbal Honey or a Sachet, or explaining a traditional blend like Fine Herbs. 

There is a little bit of everything in this book.  It is perfect for a beginner because it exposes you to  what the herbs are known for as well as what they can be used for while stretching you to new possibilities without giving you so much information you feel overwhelmed.  But as a seasoned herb grower and user, I also felt it had something to offer me, especially giving me the ability to look at 26 herbs I was already familiar with in some new and unique ways.  I definitely have been enjoying the recipes which included standards, but did not stick to tried and true giving me several combinations I was dying to try as soon as I read them.  In fact all three dressings have adorned my salads already.

I absolutely love this little book and will be adding it to my recommended reading list for all lectures and programs.  You should check it out too!

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