Judith Griffin presents a unique look at herbs based on twenty years of travel and research to study the foods, herbs, and medicines of indigenous cultures. She collected folktales, recipes, and historical information about a huge number of herbs and presents them in a lively informative text embellished with pen and ink drawings from medieval to modern sources. Suggestions for growing and using herbs round-out the book.
The book is divided in two sections. The first deals with the cultural background of herbs and includes their historical use, the language of herbal folklore, and a close look at the way different people in different centuries used herbs in their daily life. Six cultures are surveyed in detail including Native and South American, Mediterranean, Indian, Chinese, and medieval. Over 200 recipes are provided for a variety of medicines, foods, dyes, and cosmetics so that the reader can make ice cream the way the colonists did in 1714, create a Chinese nightcap from peony roots and chrysanthemum flowers to become more beautiful, and brew a tonic to increase longevity as the Ojibwa of the Great Lakes used to do. Many of the recipes are appealing to today’s palette such as papas a la huancaina, a Peruvian potato dish seasoned with turmeric and chilies, and Greek rigani salad dressing flavored with mint, wild marjoram, garlic, cilantro, cinnamon and thyme.
The second part of the book provides instructions for organically growing, harvesting, storing, and using herbs. One part focuses on companion planting to control pests and maximize yields, another presents plant lists and diagrams for creating theme gardens such as a bee garden and Biblical garden. Recipes for herbal butters, vinegars and oils, and a list of herbs for the home medicine cabinet are provided. The final chapter deals with the use of essential oils and flower essences and includes, balancing the chakras, aromatherapy, and recipes for an herbal toner, skin softener, and nail strengthener. Appendices include a plant growth chart, classification and origins of old roses, a guide to nutrients, and a purchasing guide. A glossary, general index, and recipe index are also included.
Mother Nature’s Herbal is attractively packaged with a earthy cover in a Victorian design that homey feeling. Tidbits in the margins like “Hasten slowly and you shall arrive.” enhance the margins and enliven the work while the text contains a wealth of information about herbs. The book is fascinating reading and would appeal to readers interested in gardening, herbs, cooking, or anthropology.