Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Review: The New American Herbal by Stephen Orr

This newest gift from Blogging for Books is a gem. It's a rare find in so many ways. Beyond our world of fiction books, romance paperbacks, YA literature, and non-fiction biographies, there's still a desire for good old-fashioned reference books, kind of like the dictionary (which I more than secretly love). Which is only partially why I adore this book so much.

The other reason it's a great find is that packed between pages of beautifully photographed images of herbs and flowering plants lies a plethora of information. Everything from the safety of a plant to how it's harvested and why, this tome reduces the internet equivalent to dust. It really sheds just the right amount of light on each plant and the reason, including historically, why we use the plant and how to get the most benefit out of it. 

This is not a light book, but the presentation of the information makes it appear that way. There are scads of tidbits on understanding herbs and how to propagate and harvest them; extraction processes for essential oils made from herbs and the best way to use them; creating your own garden; and a whole section on kitchen essentials that showcase recipes for adding herbs to spice blends, beverages, oils, and vinegar. Follow this up by a little sprinkling of different herb usage from around the world, as well as other cultures including Native American and older traditional herbs. I'm in heaven! 

The book is laid out with information preceding the glossary of alphabetical herbs followed by a substantial resource section. Tucked between those herby pages are recipes using the said herbs in sweet and savory dishes. I love this. It's not a full-on recipe book, but it adds a little panache to your dinner by potentially trying something new. How about a little lavender in your cake? Yum! 

I did find that I would have liked more information crammed into this already over-filled book. I would have liked more details, but that's the point. It's a reference book to get you started. Reference it, then dig deeper using the many tools we have all around us. 

Nonetheless, what a splendid find! It will sit happily next to my beloved dictionary, ready for reference at a whim's notice.

*I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.