By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America
An herb gardener and enthusiast for nearly 30 years, it’s been a while since I’ve met an herbal reference I couldn’t live without. Well, I just met one: The Culinary Herbal, Growing & Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs (Timber Press, 2016, $27.50) by Susan Belsinger & Arthur O. Tucker. Both are members of HSA.
The book is a guide, not a cookbook. With carefully chosen words, and straightforward pictures by Shawn Linehan, it sates the appetite for information. You don’t walk away hungry for more or overwhelmed by too much.
Six reasons to add The Culinary Herbal to your library include
- It discusses common and uncommon herbs. For example, the first listing is “ajowan.” The seeds smell/taste of thyme and are used in savory Indian dishes.
- It covers food uses. About lemon verbena the authors write “[the leaves] make a delightful syrup. Extracts and tinctures are used in the formulations of liqueurs. They can also be made into an aromatic paste for baked goods.”
- It explores taste like a good wine catalog. Violas or Johnny-jump-ups “have pleasingly mild sweet tastes like baby lettuce. Some of them have a slight, mild hint of wintergreen, and a few bring bubblegum to mind.”
- It notes growing information. Atop the page for each herb is a summary of ideal conditions. French Tarragon prefers full sun in well-drained soil of a 6 to 6.5 pH.
- It cautions of dangers. Did you know that green, unripe elderberries are poisonous?
- It offers lush, definitive photography. Relevant photos of each herb show essential parts such as leaves, flowers, fruit, seed, roots.
The only thing missing is a spreadsheet so I don’t have to flip pages to find like-herbs for my shade garden with dry soil, etc. Then, again, the growing information is a top each listing. So, flipping page by page is simple enough.
What’s your favorite herb reference book?