The time has arrived to search for gifts for family and friends. Bookstores are my first stop to find interesting presents. There I search primarily for books offering some information about plants.
For cooks and gardeners, I chose Taste of Herbs by Sue Goetz (St. Lynn’s, 2019). This book provides not only directions on how to grow herbs, but also tasty recipes using herbal ingredients. Her own diet limited by health problems, the author based the book’s cooking section on dishes that add herbal preparations to simple foods.
Goetz begins by explaining how to grow, pick, dry, and store 20 commonly used herbs. Advice is given on making herbal blends and on what herbs work best with various meats. Before introducing the recipes, Goetz identifies the uses and characteristics of the numerous varieties of salts, sugars, oils, and vinegars now available on grocery shelves.
Over 100 recipes of both contemporary and standard dishes are included in this book. Mouth-watering butters, vinegars, syrups, teas, pestos, breads and rubs for meats fill the latter half of the volume. Many of the recipes’ results, such as bottled herbal oils and vinegars, are appropriate to accompany this book as a holiday gift to a foodie friend.
Another choice, Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and Other Backyard Wildlife (Creative Homeowner, 2019) is written by David Mizejewski, a naturalist for the National Wildlife Federation. As the title indicates, this book offers a vast amount of information for creating habitats for animals.
A lengthy questionnaire for the reader to complete begins the book. Answering these questions allows a property owner to determine what they want and need to change in their yard to accommodate more wildlife. The book concludes with a similar checklist application to have your garden become a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
Throughout the book, native trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, grasses, and vines that yield food or nectar are listed as recommended. Common non-native invasive plants to be avoided are also identified. Nandina, burning bush and Japanese spirea and privet, all staples of many yards, are on the avoid list.
Some of the most interesting information is in the Wildlife Profiles scattered throughout the book. For instance, did you know that opossums are the only marsupial living in North America? Other creatures introduced as possible yard residents are toads, box turtles, owls, foxes, bluebirds, and monarch butterflies.
For those with children to entertain, a section of family projects illustrates how to easily make birdhouses and feeders. Suggested wildlife cookies, pinecone feeders, bird bagels, and garland feeders will amply cover a holiday tree for birds.
Whether a cook or gardener, these books can fill the year with activities. A larger herb garden will increase the cook’s enthusiasm to prepare new recipes. Watching the expected animal visitors will make worthwhile the efforts involved in modifying your yard.
Featured image – Rosemary / Dale Batchelor
Christine Thomson is a Raleigh gardener obsessed with plants. She is a volunteer at the JC Raulston Arboretum and fills her spare time reading books, especially volumes about vegetation.