Wild and Weedy Apothecary

If you saw a book with the above title, would you pick it up and look at it?

Well… I did and now I have it here with me.

Here’s how I acquired the book- I attended the Texas Renaissance Festival with my sister-in-law earlier this month. One of our favorite shops is Creative Life Booksellers, not too far inside the front gate. The shop is filled with books, calenders, coloring books, cards, book marks, tarot cards and more on subjects as varied as dragons, faeries, pirates, Celtic history, the Renaissance and, of course, herbs.

The herb book selection is small, but there are always books I don’t have, and such is the case with The Wild and Weedy Apothecary by Doreen Shababy.

Book Cover

The book contains “recipes” for healing uses of herbs, simple teas, food recipes using herbs and a lot about harvesting and using herbs found in your own area. Then, there is an encyclopedic listing of herbs with remedies and recipes for each listing. For instance, under A, you will find the following– Alliums, Anise, Apple, Aromatherapy and Aunt Carols’s Manicotti– each with a recipe or useful commentary

The aspect of this book I like most, besides the content itself, is the tone. It’s friendly and helpful rather than pedantic or authoritative. It feels like you’re sitting at the kitchen table with Doreen over a cup of herb tea, discussing the herbs you’ve used, have growing in your yard or nearby outdoor area and herbs you’re interested in but have yet to grow or try. There’s no feeling of having to rush through this book. The information is easy to access and to use. It’s one to keep handy and think of when you’re feeling a cold coming on, flu-like symptoms, have irritating bug bites or one of your kids has a sore throat.

The recipes for food are for wholesome dishes with easy to find ingredients- or with ingredients right out of your own garden. There’s lots of family history tied up in food and recipes in general, and Ms. Shababy generously shares some of her family with us.

All in all, I consider this book a great find. I’ve been slowly going through it skipping from section to section as I think of herbs to look up or recipes to try.

If you’re into reading blogs, Ms. Shababy has one here.

One more book that is a little unusual that captures my imagination is an Almanac, as it follows the Calendar, rather than an alphabetical pattern. It is by Susan Wittig Albert, author of the China Bayles herbal-infused mystery series set in a fictitious Texas Hill Country town called Pecan Springs.

Book CoverThe book is called China Bayles Book of Days.

Each day of the year has a discussion of a particular herb, usually with a recipe or two to accompany it, often with gardening advice. There is a wealth of information in this book. You can read it year after year as the entries follow the calander and thus, the seasons, rather than any particular year.

There are myriad herb books that have been published, from Culpepper’s Herbal published in 1649, to the many colorful books of the present. Some are herb growing guides, some are food recipe books using herbs, some are strictly medicinal, some are about crafting with herbs, while many are a combination of the varied aspects of the world of herbs. Whichever is your choice, there are books to help you learn more and deepen your knowledge and appreciation of this vast world. Whatever your interest in herbs, it is all rooted in the plants, the soil, the natural world around us.

I hope you’re enjoying the holidays with family and friends.


green line

C.S. Lewis said “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

November 2002 – Sage

A couple of years ago,

sage was designated the herb of the year. A t-shirt I purchased at a show had a beautiful drawing of a sage plant in great colors and went with lots of things. But, I think sage is an underused herb most of the year. It’s during the holidays when we roast a turkey or a goose, and the aroma fills the house, that sage comes into its own.

Sage, Salvia officinalis, is a traditional ingredient in poultry stuffing, but it shows up in other recipes too. If you purchase something called “poultry seasoning” at the grocery store, it contains sage. Many recipes for breakfast sausage or “Yankee sausage”, as I’ve seen it called, call for the addition of sage.

Sage is a strong herb and if used too generously, can be unpleasant. But, a light touch with sage does wonders for roast potatoes, pork roast and even an omelet. Sage is a flavorful addition to an herb butter. Sage tea is refreshing….. add a little honey since the sage is not sweet. Sage has been used as a topical antiseptic to cleanse a wound and to ease the pain of insect bites.

As with many herbs we are familiar with only as a culinary ingredient, sage has a long and varied history with any number of ancient civilizations. Dioscorides, the ancient Greek physician, was familiar with sage for its medicinal properties, as were the Egyptians who used it to increase fertility. In Central American the leaves of a variety of sage, S. microphylla, are infused to make a drink to treat fever. And, in Mexico, the mucilaginous seeds of S. hispanica are mixed with lemon juice, water and sugar to make a drink known as “chia”. S. miltiorhiza (known as red ginseng, because of its red roots) has been used in Chinese medicine since 206 BC. Continue reading “November 2002 – Sage”