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The Complete Gardener's Guide
by Patrick Lima
illustrated by Turid Forsyth
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Excerpt from Chapter 1; Sample Entry from Chapter 4 Excerpted from Chapter 1 Starting Out: Herbs in the landscape




In a garden, as in nature as a whole, diversity is a hallmark of health and balance. Anything that reduces diversity -- growing a strictly limited number of plants, for instance, or using chemicals that deplete soil organisms or spraying to wipe out insect friends and foes alike -- invites trouble down the road. In contrast, planting a variety of herbs about a garden promotes diversity in both subtle and obvious ways. Beneficial parasitic wasps are drawn to the flowers of lovage, sweet cicely, dill and other umbelliferous plants. Hummingbirds arrive to sip nectar from crowns of tubular bergamot flowers, while swallowtail, admiral and monarch butterflies flit among purple coneflowers or land on the great cartwheel blooms of angelica. Essential for pollination, bumblebees and honeybees seek out nectar from herbs such as lemon balm, lavender, mints and hyssop and busily gather pollen from opium poppies. Where conditions are right, frogs, toads, bats and ladybugs will inhabit a garden and eat their share, of aphids and mosquitoes. Having admired frogs sitting placidly on their water-lily pads, you may be discomfited on occasion to come upon a garter snake -- or, in these parts, a massasauga rattlesnake -- with its mouth full of web-toed amphibian, but it's all of a piece. In late summer, twittering goldfinches fly in to feast on sunflower and mullein seeds.

I can't imagine our garden without its herbs, plants that enchant us somehow and elicit contact and response. When I think of herbs, I think of essence, intensity and strength: pervasive aroma; flavors pungent or sweet but always distinct; essential oils concentrated to a degree that gives a plant character. Working with herbs brings us in touch with intertwining traditions of gardening, cookery, brewing, folk medicine and home-based crafts. So many simple pleasures are associated with herbs: picking fresh leaves for the kitchen; making a pot of fragrant tea; traveling down memory lane on a whiff of costmary or rue; tousling the lavender as you stroll by and breathing in its calming scent.

Herbs encompass a huge variety, and our aim is to be as inclusive as possible. Something that shows up as a herb here may well be another gardener's weed, vegetable or flower. In the chapters that follow, herbs are grouped according to common characteristics and uses: annual and perennial culinary herbs; tea herbs; the various thymes, sages and alliums; herbs grown primarily for fragrance; and old-time medicinals that remain excellent ornamentals for sun and shade. Look around the piece of earth you tend. There are places in every landscape where herbs of one kind or another will thrive, adding their varied appeal of scent and savor, utility and tradition -- creating a garden full of interest and beauty by any definition.


Excerpted from Chapter 4. Summer Seasonings: Annual and biennial kitchen herbs


Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium


Chervil is so delicate, it never appears in markets. To have chervil in the kitchen, you must grow it in the garden. But once established, this pretty annual sows its hardy seeds and reappears gratis every season. Chervil does not transplant. To start a patch, scratch the long black seeds shallowly into decent loam in sun or light shade. Keep the ground moist until the seeds sprout, thin the seedlings to 6 inches apart, and harvest the outside leaves, always leaving the central crown to continue growing. Lacy umbels of pinkish white flowers -- "like exquisite bits of enamel work," says one observant writer -- are followed in midsummer by seeds. Allowing chervil to seed down saves you the work, but be prepared for new plants to pop up in odd places. When chervil is left to its own schedule, its seeds sprout in early fall, forming a small rosette that winters over and begins to grow first thing in spring.

"The leaves put into a sallet give a marvellous relish to the rest," wrote John Parkinson in his 1629 "speaking garden," Paradisi in Sole.

Later, in the 1699 Acetaria, John Evelyn added his assent: "The tender tips of chervil should never be wanting in our sallets, being exceedingly wholesome and cheering of the spirits." Indeed, the herb's name comes from the Latin chaerephyllum, "a joy-giving leaf"; chervil equals cheerful.

A close cousin to the robustly perennial sweet cicely, chervil holds a milder anise flavor in its soft curly leaves. Given its early growth, chervil is a natural with chives and dill to season spring dishes; try the three in cottage cheese or dips. Chervil butter flavors asparagus, and later on, minced chervil and chives go into lettuce salads and warm potato salad. I often use up to one-third chervil with parsley for tabbouleh. The French fines herbes always include chervil and chives with two others chosen from thyme, savory, basil or tarragon; in any combination, they make a splendid green-flecked omelette. Chervil is best fresh and may be added at the last minute to cream soups such as carrot, asparagus or puree of green pea. In fact, this is all the cooking that chervil's subtle flavor will withstand.


Excerpted from Chapter 17 In the Kitchen: Cooking with fresh herbs


Spicy Tofu


When I feel a bout of sniffles coming on, I load this dish with ginger and garlic and make it extra-hot with chilies. It seems to knock back an incipient cold. Adjust the spices to your liking, and serve with rice and steamed greens. 1 block tofu, regular or firm 1 Tbsp. olive oil 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger 2 fresh red chili peppers, chopped, or 1/2 tsp. dried red chili flakes, or more to taste 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped, or more to taste 1/2 tsp. curry powder (optional) 1/2 tsp. tamari 1 Tbsp. water

Cut the tofu into bite sized cubes or strips, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the ginger, chili peppers or flakes and garlic, and cook for a minute or two, stirring to prevent the garlic from browning. Add the tofu, and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until the tofu turns slightly golden. (Unless you are using a well-seasoned, cast-iron or non-stick frying pan, you may have to add a little more oil to keep the tofu from sticking.) Add the curry powder if using, and stir for 1 minute. Add the tamari and water, and bring to a high simmer. Serve hot.

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The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener

How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live
by Niki Jabbour
by (photographer) Joseph De Sciose
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The Boreal Herbal

The Boreal Herbal

Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North
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