Book Review – The Culinary Herbal: Growing and Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs by Susan Belsinger, Arthur O. Tucker

2 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Timber Press for a free ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest review.

This was an interesting book that I’m finding hard to describe. With the word ‘culinary’ in the title, I had been expecting more of a cooking based book than it actually is. Yes there are mentions in the list of herbs as to what they are best used for, yes there are some recipes and yes there were great details on how to preserve the herbs for cooking… but I still somehow felt a little let down there wasn’t more about the food side.

To me, this was just another book on herbs. Their Latin names, some description of them (but you mostly relied on the picture for identification), their origin and some of their uses. Nothing particularly exciting or culinary. But I do feel terrible by saying ‘just another book on herbs’… but I can’t think of what else to say.

I did learn some new herbs, and I did learn more about how to harvest and eat some of the ‘weeds’ we have in my backyard. Though, as the book didn’t have a detailed list of other names the plant is known by, I’m not 100% sure I have the right plant. Is what we call soursop Wood Sorrel? Or are they just both from the Oxalis family? There were a few plants I came across like this where I found I would need to do a web search for more info… and if I was researching them via the web, would I really need this book for reference?

Okay, I need to put in some positives as the book does deserve some. The section on growing herbs was good – for those who were just starting out at growing things. And I did like the detailed section on ‘Maintaining the Health of Herbs’ as it covered quite a few issues that do pop up.

Another positive is it introduced me to some herbs from North America I’d not heard of before. But, sadly for me, the reason I’ve not herd of them is probably because I can’t grow them here in Australia so as interesting as learning about them was… I doubt I can add them to my garden.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Possibly, but more likely not. It was an interesting book to read, but there are better Australian based herbalist books that I would suggest for local friends. Plus it didn’t cover all the herbs I use. Though I might recommend it to people starting out in growing their own herbs in the USA? It is a good little resource book, but I didn’t find anything in it that made it stand out from the crowd.

Would I buy this book for myself?

No, sorry. There just wasn’t enough easy to locate and unique information in this book to make me want to own it. As said, I gathered more useful information on specific herbs from doing a web search than I did from reading it. And there are other gardening/ herbalist books I already own that covered the growing, harvesting and preserving of herbs. I really feel I am not the right audience for it. Maybe it is better suited to someone just learning about herbs? A beginner’s herb guide maybe?

In summary: Possibly a good book for someone in North America just starting out on learning about herbs, but not in-depth enough for me. Somehow it was just missing the wow factor and I wish I could put my finger on why.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO


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