Sunday, 10 August 2008

Book Review: Jekka's Complete Book of Herbs

I believe Jekka McVicar is a national treasure. A herb guru and record breaking multi-gold medal winner at Chelsea, whose nursery is one of the few certified as organic in this country. I met her at one of the open days held at her Herb Farm last year - luckily for me it's not that far from where I live. It was a fascinating day out- it was just before Chelsea, so we got a sneak preview of the plants being grown for her exhibition stand, plus her new seed range 'Reds Under the Beds' to be launched at the show. It's a colourful mix of saladings which we also got to sniff and taste. I also met her lovely cat called Borage - as in the herb pictured above. She personally chose for me the lemongrass plant I have in the garden, as she thought the one I'd picked up wasn't up to standard. She then told me to try wrapping salmon in its leaves before baking in the oven - delicious. So I was already a fan.

Now The Garden Monkey has also persuaded her to donate a signed copy of her latest book, 'Jekka's Complete Herb Book', for my open garden fundraiser, so her status is now national treasure squared in my view. It's a gorgeous book and Jekka uses the term 'herb' in its widest sense, covering medicinal, culinary and other uses. So plants like Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and Betony (Stachys officinalis) have equal billing alongside the more familiar Mint and Thyme.

The bulk of the book is the A-Z of herbs (by botanic name, not common) and covers over 150 plants. You'll find plenty of history and folk-lore alongside the expected details on cultivation, harvesting and uses. There's recipes too - I've sneakily written down the one for lavender biscuits as I'm intrigued by it and also the instructions for pickling Nasturtium seeds as my plot is overrun with them this year. After the A-Z, there's a shorter, more general section covering propagation, planning a herb garden (including several designs), container growing, pests & diseases, harvesting, using herbs as natural dyes plus instructions for making herb oils, vinegars and preserves.

The text is clearly laid out whilst packing a lot of information into each page. The photographs are beautiful too. I think it's a perfect gift for a complete beginner or an expert and I think you'll be looking at a number of the plants in your garden with fresh eyes, OR finding somewhere to squeeze in 'just a few more herbs that'll come in handy' into your garden. As it's a book I'm going to find extremely hard to part with, I've decided you've got to make it worth my while. Therefore, it'll go to the person giving the highest donation in my fundraiser starting on Friday. In the event of a tie, I'll draw the name out of a hat.

And if any of you are in the Alveston area on the weekend of 29-31 August, I'd recommend popping in to Jekka's Herb Farm as it's the last open weekend for this year - if not, she does do mail order too. See you there!

10 comments:

  1. Your blog is so well written. I enjoyed very much. It is a pleasure to visit your site.
    Philip

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  2. Jekka McVicar is most certainly on top in her field. I am endeavouring to fill up gaps in my borders with herbs, great to eat, and lovely flowers too. x

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  3. It is a wonderful book by a great grower. And a very fine prize for some lucky person.

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  4. The book is a great prize, and thoroughly worth donating a good sum for!

    I have it already, but a signed copy would be treasure indeed!

    Hmmmm....

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  5. Sounds like a great book; you should have some high bids for this one.
    Just read your post on gardening shows; the raspberry photo was a work of art, but I bet it tasted even better!

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  6. I have a feeling that open weekend starts on the Friday, which is a nice chance to get there before the bank holiday rush? Or is bank holiday the weekend before? I am really confused this month.

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  7. Do hope your fundraising goes well - you sound to have some great prizes, well done. I'm just sorry that Chippenham isn't closer to Notts or I'd be there to join in the fun.

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  8. Philip - welcome! I'm glad you like it here :)

    TIMP - yes and a lovely person to meet too

    TS - yes, I'm going to find it particularly hard to give this one away.

    Zoe - yes it is!

    Rose - they were scrummy. And I've more to pick :D

    Emmat - you're right it is on the Friday. Have amended the entry. It's also the weekend after the Bank Holiday.

    Maggi - you can join in - from the comfort of your desktop! I'll send you an invitation on Friday.

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  9. This will be an excellent addition to somebody's bookshelf. I have one of her earlier books on herbs as well as her book on growing from seed - both excellent sources of information. I had the pleasure of hearing Jekka McVicar speak a couple of years ago on the subject of herbs - she held the audience absolutely spellbound for a good hour or more.

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  10. Anna - you're right and she is such an inspirational speaker.

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