I recently picked up a copy of The Complete Book of Herbs by Lesley Bremness because I’m really interested in developing an herb garden. Actually, it will be sprawling container garden along with some things planted in our garden just because there are so many great herbs to grow and we have plenty of space.
The copy I have was published in 1988 (although there seems to have been an update in 1994) but very little has changed in the world of herbs. Culinary, medical, decorative and cosmetic uses of herbs have been around for centuries and have merely been revived over the years.
The Complete Book of Herbs is a great overview of the many qualities and benefits of having an herb garden. The book is broken down well and provides you with everything you need to know to get your own herb garden started, whether you’re planning to build a huge English garden style herb sanctuary, a container garden of herbs on your patio or in your house, or a simple herb garden for your kids or grandkids who have an interest in gardening. Topics like soil quality and composition, propogation, building stone walls and paths, and more are covered in the cultivating and harvesting herbs secion.
A large portion of the book is devoted to the profiles of over 100 herbs which are commonly used and easily grown. Each profile includes photos, descriptions of all parts of the plant, basic growing information and how the herb is in food, the household and for ailments. Flipping through and reading the descriptions made me want to grow just about every herb mentioned.
There are also sections on herbal decorations with dried and fresh herbs (making wreaths, nosegays and so on), 30 pages of recipes for cooking with herbs, herbal household products (including dyes, cleaning products, paper, ink and potpourri), 15 pages about using herbs for homemade beauty products including recipes and an overview of essential oils.
The Complete Book of Herbs is written without a lot of frills and lays out all the information in a clear, easy to read format. The herbs are organized by their Latin names which may have you flipping to the index a lot but those interested in using herbs medicinally will benefit from the “A-Z of herbal treatments” which lists ailments alphabetically and then describes the various herbs which have been shown to help or cure those problems.
I definitely see myself referencing this book a lot in the future, especially as I start planning the layout of my herb garden. The photographs of the plants are fantastic and it gives you all the information you need to get inspired about starting to use herbs for more than just cooking.