"Everything you need to know about cultivating culinary herbs in Canada and the colder half of the United States.
Book review by Art Drysdale... We now have a book that concentrates on the growing of herbs, and even more important, it’s written for gardeners in colder climates. Culinary Herbs for Short-Season Gardeners is the title, and the principal author is Ernest Small, PhD, principal research scientist at the research branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Though not well known to gardeners, Dr. Small has authored over 200 scientific publications on economic plants, and seven books including the 1998 Canadian Government’s AgCellence Award winners Culinary Herbs and Vegetables of Canada. His co-author on this herb book is Grace Deutsch, an amateur gardener who grows herbs on the family’s weekend farm in Bruce County, Ontario. She has struggled with short-season gardening problems and learned the use of cloches, hardening-off seedlings and the protective qualities of mulch. Not only does this book have co-authors, but also co-publishers: our federal government’s National Research Council, Ottawa (www.monographs.nrs.ca) and Ismant Peony Press, Toronto, where Grace Deutsch is managing Director (www.ismantassociates.com). This book has 192 pages 19 x 25 cm (7½ x 9¾”) and each of 57 species (over 100 cultivars) is listed and illustrated with excellent colour sketches. The sketches, by the way, are mostly modified from masterpieces of botanical illustration produced in the 18th and 19th centuries that are so valuable they are kept in secure collections generally unavailable for public viewing. For each herb species the authors give: a good description, cultivation and harvesting notes, culinary, craft and medicinal uses, cautions, cultivars and relatives (if applicable), and fascinating herbal trivia. Let’s take thyme, for example, which with the colour sketch, takes four pages. There is an excellent explanation of the derivation of the name, along with four points of trivia:
“The thymus gland, which is part of the human immune system, was so named by early anatomists because it reminded them of a thyme flower.” “According to Christian tradition, garden thyme was one of the herbs that lined the manger in which the infant Jesus lay. It is often included in modern Christmas nativity scenes.”
“Since antiquity, thyme blossoms have been renowned for scenting the famous honey that comes from Mount Hymettus in Greece.”
“Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the great Swedish botanist and originator of the modern system of biological nomenclature, recommended an infusion of thyme to cure a hangover.” This is by far, the best herb book I’ve seen. It does have one or two shortcomings however. The first would be that the entire hardiness rating system is based on the USDA hardiness map that, particularly for Canada, is not nearly as accurate as the 1967 Agriculture Canada map. The reason for the use of the American map is obvious, the book, like many others currently, has been produced for both the Canadian and northern U.S. markets. The second criticism comes from Jean deGruchy, owner/operator of Greymalkin Farm in southern Ontario, and former author of Plant & Garden magazine’s herb articles for many years. Jean too thought it an absolutely “excellent book” but found the relatively lightweight cover stock “a little too flimsy.” She said that with only a little use she found it curling badly. Those points aside, I highly recommend Culinary Herbs for Short-Season Gardeners—a paperback costing just $24.95. It’s available from NRC Research Press, 1-800-668-1222, or email@example.com. It is also diponible en français!