Monday, June 25, 2012

Treasures From Used Bookstores: Gardening Books



I have a growing collection of beautiful gardening books thanks to my favorite used bookstores. Once I discovered that their gardening sections are usually well stocked with great books, I’ve been padding my own shelves at home with some gems at low cost. Some are no longer in print, so that's another reason to spend time browsing in these shops. 

Herbal Knowledge is Timeless 
Some of my best finds are herbals, books on growing and using herbs. Herbs are essential in my garden for cooking and for brewing teas. I’ve written previously about their benefits to the garden ecosystem

And these books don't get outdated. This is knowledge that has been gathered and passed down through generations that will always be useful. 

Three Books for Your Gardening Collection 
Here are some of my favorite finds that I think you'll enjoy too. If they aren't available in your used bookstore, you might find copies online: 

1. The Forgotten Art of Growing, Gardening, and Cooking with Herbs, by Richard M. Bacon, 1972, Yankee INC. 

This medium-sized paperback book is packed with information about kitchen herbs, including how to design herb gardens and how to grow herbs indoors in restricted spaces. It has numerous short recipes (no detailed cooking instructions) and a chart for which herbs to pair with specific foods. There are also recipes for making skin creams, scented oils, and even how to use them as pesticides. Interestingly, this book is one in a series of “The Forgotten Art of…” books (others are: Building a Good Fireplace, and Building a Stone Wall!). 

Drying herbs for Herbs de Provence: thyme, rosemary and lavender


2. Herbs: Gardens, Decorations, and Recipes, by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead, 1985, Houston Home and Garden. 

This is a gorgeous book that is up there in the coffee-table-book category. It’s a hefty hardcover in a large format, and full of glossy color photos. The authors feature forty herbs for the garden with a paragraph or two about each, but the generous amount of photos of featured gardens across the country (plus one in England) make this a perfect book to curl up with and savor. The authors showcase different herb gardens, from cozy and quaint to formal, and discuss design ideas. Detailed recipes beautifully photographed are another plus. The back of the book has a directory of herb shops and gardens. I’m glad I didn’t have to pay full price for this one! 

Delicate and lovely Silver thyme flowers

3. Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Claire Kowalchik and William H. Hylton, editors, 1987, Rodale Press. 

Wow. This is my hands-downs favorite reference book, probably influenced by the fact that it was my father’s book. My hardcover copy has over 140 herbs. Each entry includes historical anecdotes as well as uses, cultivation, drawings and photos. The descriptions of the herbs are very thorough, and include detailed horticultural notes describing the leaves and flowers, growing zones, and Latin names. Besides charts for pairing with food, this book has sections on herbal botany, a history of herbs, and the use of herbs in healing. This one is a must for anyone interested in herbs. 



Do you have a favorite gardening book you picked up used? Let me know - I'd love to hear about more old gems...

 A version of this post was also published on Eat Drink Better

Photos: Patricia Larenas

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