Just when I think that I have all the books about herbs that I could ever want, along comes another must-have book to tempt me! I couldn't resist The Herb Society of America's Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking With Herbs, just published this month. Edited by long-time herbalist Katherine K. Schlosser, it's one of the best, most authoritative guides I've seen recently.
The book is divided into three sections. Part One contains horticultural information about each of the sixty-three culinary herbs grown in the National Herb Garden, a project of the Herb Society of America (HSA). If you're new to herbs, you'll appreciate the reliable, easy-to-read information for each herb. It will help you decide which plants and/or varieties are hardy in your area, which will grow on your kitchen window sill, and what kind of culture the plant needs. But even if you're knowledgeable about the "useful plants," you're sure to find something new and interesting in each of the 63 herbs. You'll learn, for example, why caraway is often called "German cumin"; why dill and fennel seeds were once known as "meeting seeds"; and how to turn a woman into an ideal housewife (for the answer, check out the mustard entry). There's also a section on herbal trees, such as cinnamon. Okay.'fess up, now. I'll bet you didn't know that this favorite spice comes from the bark of a tree!
If Part One of the book is informative, Part Two—the recipe section—is simply delicious. These recipes, all contributed by members of HSA, were selected for their originality and taste appeal. Each was tested, and the tester's notes included with the recipe. From appetizers (Rosemary White Bean Puree, Herb-Roasted Garlic) to desserts (Saffron Cake, Lemon Basil Tea Bread), there's an herb-flavored dish that will make the meal special.
Part Three is a special bonus: a tour of the National Herb Garden in Washington D.C., with wonderful photos and helpful plant lists for each of the main gardens. The book, whose profits are dedicated to the support of the intern at the National Herb Garden, is fully documented and includes a comprehensive bibliography. It belongs on your bookshelf.
Katherine K. Schlosser is the editor of Wild Flower, the journal of the North Carolina Native Plant Society. A long-time member of the Herb Society of America, she lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with her husband.
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