Talk about a classic. Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbshas held a position on my bookshelf for over 20 years and I still find a reason to dust it off at the beginning of each gardening season. This book contains all the herbs you know and a few you probably don’t. Take Wahoo, Euonymus atropurpurea, which was given it’s common name by Native Americans. It has long been used internally and for facial sores even though it is extremely toxic (which is why Rodale’s classifies it as unsafe). To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered the plant. Apprently, however, it is very easy to grow.
In addition to herbal history, cultivation and medicinal uses, this book also contains a great deal of information on other uses for herbs. Having recently discovered needle felting, I have become intrigued by the idea that I can dye my wool roving with plant based dies. If I desire, I can even grow plants specifically for this purpose. Although I have had this book for years, it wasn’t until I needed the information that I realized it contained an entire chapter on the subject. I can get chartreuse from Stachys officinallis, rust from the roots of Sanguinaria canadensis, and pink from the roots of Galium verum. It also explains the difference between the different mordants; alum, tin and chrome.
For the holidays I recently reread the section on Crafts from Herbs where it explains how to make living herb wreaths and kissing balls. I used their idea for a cooking herb wreath for several gifts throughout the year. By drying and collecting your own herbs, you can make an attractive wreath that can be hung in the kitchen and snipped when needed. Should you want to give an herbal gift to one you love, be sure to check out the section on the meaning of herbs. While calendula bears saddness, scented geranium extends happiness. If you are saying it with herbs, it is important to get the message right. And for the fashionistas out there you can even make your own scented jewelry with the instructions on making rose beads.
Who should you gift this book to? Anyone interested in herbs whether it be for medicinal uses, beauty treatments, crafting or culinary. For over 20 years this has been the only book on herbs I’ve ever needed.