Herbs and spices are the “spice” of foodie life, and I hope you’ll try to move beyond my horrible attempt at a pun to hear what I have to say about a book I read recently. “Herbs and Spices” is a lovely little book is a series titled “Self-Sufficiency” by Linda Gray that breaks down multi-use plants, herbs and spices into an easy-to-understand mini-encyclopedia with charming and detailed illustrations.

I have spoken with more than one chef who has grown or thought about growing their own herbs and spices for use in their restaurant, and this is a great beginner’s guide for chef and foodies alike. While it is easy to understand, there are a few sections that seem a little over-simplified and are more like “jumping off points” that lead you to research more rather than fully explaining a concept. For example, the section about herb garden design states that a well planned herb garden does well but  there is not a detailed explanation of how to plan an herb garden. Still, this book is full of useful information and is wonderful for getting started.

After initial tips on recyclable potting and other garden design tips that you may want to research further, the handy directory begins.  The first section is called “One plant, several uses” and features plants that have more than one use. Celery and fennel can be used as vegetables, herbs and spices while coriander and nasturtiums can be used as herbs or spices. 

The next two sections cover herbs and spices respectively. For each plant that is listed in the directory, Gray gives a section about the plant, growing advice, propagation information, planting or growing outside or inside, and tips for storing and using the plant. Weaved into the sections about each plant are some health uses of the plants for symptoms like fainting, digestion, and constipation. There is a useful index in the back of the book where you can find those symptoms easily. 

Herbs are a great starting point for those interested in growing some of their own food, and this book is easily understood with a just a few occasional references to other material for terms you might be unfamiliar with. At $9.99 or even lesser used prices, this is a book I’d definitely recommending adding to your library. I used to have a rosemary tree in my kitchen that smelled so amazing, and I’ve missed it since moving in the winter killed it. Flipping through this book definitely left me feeling inspired to plant some kitchen herbs in egg crates and paper towel roll cardboard. We’ll see how it turns out. 

Image Courtesy of the Author, Linda Gray