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The Complete Herb Book
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The Complete Herb Book

2.6 6
by Jekka McVicar, Penelope Hobhouse (Introduction)

"This is a must-have book for everyone who loves gardening and cooking. I'm Jekka 's biggest fan."
-Jamie Oliver (on the previous edition)

The Complete Herb Book is a comprehensive A-Z guide to the fascinating world of herbs, providing practical information on each herb's organic growing requirements, use,


"This is a must-have book for everyone who loves gardening and cooking. I'm Jekka 's biggest fan."
-Jamie Oliver (on the previous edition)

The Complete Herb Book is a comprehensive A-Z guide to the fascinating world of herbs, providing practical information on each herb's organic growing requirements, use, mythical properties and historical background. This new edition is updated and revised to include complete entries for 40 additional herbs.

The A-Z directory features a full double-page spread for each herb, with details that include:

  • Natural habitat
  • Species and related plants
  • Soil properties
  • Watering requirements
  • Weather protection
  • Container growing
  • Strategies to eliminate pests
  • Best harvesting times
  • Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic and other uses
  • Recipes.

The how-to section features step-by-step instructions and best practices for herb gardening. Included are sample plans; month-by-month checklists; drying, freezing and storing guides; tips for making oils, vinegars and preserves; and information on propagation.

The Complete Herb Book is the ideal handbook for growing herbs and provides hours of browsing pleasure for gardeners, cooks and natural-healing practitioners.

Editorial Reviews

The Record (New York) - Maureen Gilmer
This affordable paperback is so well done that it will become dog-eared in my library, already stuffed with less-stellar publications about herbs. So what made me take notice of yet another herb book? First of all, it is very well illustrated with beautiful photographs of both the plants and some of their applications.... Most herb books come from a particular point of view, such as cultivation or cooking or folklore. This one offers equal amounts of all three plus much more. McVicar's book lays it all out for easy access without too much or too little to sift through.
Back Home Magazine Editors
If herbs are your passion, or even an interest, you may find The Complete Herb Book to be the resource you've been looking for... [It's] a one-stop reference to the organic cultivation and use of more than 150 herbs.
A comprehensive A-Z guide to the fascinating world of herbs... This new edition is updated and revised to include expanded entries for 40 additional herbs.
The National Gardener
Comprehensive ... practical.... Plant profiles include extensive data on plant culture and uses with clear photos for easy identification. The well-organized text also includes safety warnings about plants with injurious properties and the most recent research on medicinal potentials of specific herbs.
IA] Courier [Waterloo
After learning about herbs' habits a gardener can try one of the 10 herb garden plans in The Complete Herb Book.
Taste for Life - Joe Brouillette
An amazing amount of information on organic gardening...in a layout that is easy to read and understand.
Booklist - Carol Haggas
As vibrantly practical as it is visually stunning, McVicar's encyclopedic guide to approximately 150 of the most common, and several obscure, herbs more than lives up to its name... Luscious full-color photogrfaphs and helpful sidebars...In-depth discussions...and stunning design plans for themed gardens. The reigning doyenne of British herbal gardening, MccVicar is equally at home authoritatively addressing basic cultural information required by North American gardeners... Elegantly showcasing herbs' myriad applications and benefits, this one-stop resource will benefit gardeners at any skill level eager to work with these multipurpose plants.
The Tampa Tribune - Jessie Milligan (wire story)
Growing instructions are included for more than 150 herbs. Culinary uses, a few recipes, and medicinal uses are described... McVicar includes some hard-to-find exotics as well. Full color photos help with identification and whetting the appetite.
Bloomsbury Review - Nester Mingstern
Revised and expanded (the first edition was published in 1994), this established resource has become more useful the second time around.... Thanks to the all-in-one approach to the subject and the author's thoroughness, gardeners are provided a practical resource, equally at home and useful on the desktop and the garden bench.
Science News
This book includes descriptions, medicinal uses and recipes for more than 150 aromatic plants, from lemongrass to dandelion.
Central Alberta Life (Red Deer) - Susan Banks (LIFE news services)
For those who want to seek out these plants, this book is a nice compendium of what's out there.. [and] great way to familiarize yourself with a multitude of herbs and their uses. Set up alphabetically by botanic name, and lavishly illustrated, this is a great book for the beginning herb enthusiast.
Asbury Park Press (NJ) - Nancy Romanenko
From A to Z, you will find all your herb needs here... This is a fine addition to the bookshelf.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Mary-Liz Shaw
This extensive study of herbs is a pleasure to read... Entries are colorful and easy to read, many of them double-page spreads.
Today's Diet and Nutrition
Horticultural expert Jekka McVicar delivers an illustrated A-Z primer on the cultivation and culinary medicinal, and cosmetic uses of herbs that'll be appreciated not only by gardeners but also by anyone who cooks, creates, or heals with herbs.

Product Details

Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date:
Edition description:
Revised and updated
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 10.62(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt


"Excellent herbs had our fathers of old
Excellent herbs to ease their pain."

"Our Fathers of Old"—Rudyard Kipling.

My life in the world of herbs has evolved over the years but my passion and enthusiasm for these plants, which are of so much benefit to man, is as strong as ever. Over 30 years ago I started work on a herb farm in Somerset, England; it was then that my thirst for more knowledge was ignited. During the subsequent years I started, with my husband, a herb farm in South Gloucestershire that was originally wholesale and has now developed into a mail order business with the advent of the Internet. In 1992 we started exhibiting at the Royal Horticultural Society flower shows, where we have been awarded over 60 Gold medals for our herb exhibits.

I wrote the original Complete Herb Book because, after exhibiting at the RHS flower shows, I found that I was being overwhelmed with requests for practical information on the growing and the use of each herb. The book stemmed from first-hand knowledge obtained from running my organic herb farm as well as considerable research.

One of the questions I am often asked is "What is a herb?" It can be argued that all useful plants are herbs. The Oxford English Dictionary defines them as "plants of which the leaves, stem or flowers are used for food or medicine, or in some way for their scent or flavor." That many herbs do you good is in no doubt, improving your health, appearance or sense of well-being.

This new edition of the Complete Herb Book, which includes 38 new herbs, alsoshows how far organic horticulture has developed during the past decade. What I find exciting is that the development and knowledge of these plants is ever increasing and as I travel throughout the United Kingdom and overseas lecturing I realize that the interest in herbs as part of a movement toward a healthier, greener lifestyle is accelerating, so it is an appropriate time for this updated book.

For a newcomer to the world of herbs the most extraordinary feature of these plants is their incredible versatility. You may think of a particular herb as having mainly culinary or medicinal properties and then discover it has other useful applications. A herb that is greatly valued in cooking may also be of value for its medicinal properties. A plant such as thyme can provide the raw material for cooking, medicines and aromatherapy. I have included many culinary recipes in this book because herbs can transform a meal into a feast; there is nothing more inspiring than walking into a kitchen that is full of the aromas of herbs as their essential oils mingle with the food.

Herbs have been my life for over three decades. In this book I have tried to convey to you just some of the pleasure that working with these remarkable plants can bring.

Please note that the image in the colored box at the beginning of each herb is the first one described in the text. I'm sure I don't need to remind you, but please don't dig up any wild plants.


This book is comprised of two main sections:

The A-Z of Herbs

The A-Z of Herbs is arranged alphabetically by the botanical Latin name with detailed information for each specific herb such as
Other Names: lists some folk and country names.
Natural Habitat: native country and area of distribution.
Propagation: provides helpful tips for the individual herb that will make all the difference between success and failure. Techniques for seed, cuttings, division and layering are given.
Pests and Diseases: where a particular herb is susceptible to pests or diseases, treatments and any preventative measures are detailed. Maintenance: a quick checklist of tasks necessary throughout the year season by season.
Garden Cultivation: gives the preferred position and soil type and details specific tasks for maintaining the plant at its best, its likes and dislikes, watering requirements and winter protection needs.
Harvesting: the parts of the plant to harvest, together with the best time for harvesting, depending on the eventual use and method of storing.
Companion Planting: indicates when the herb is thought to be beneficial to another plant if located nearby.
Container Growing: whether indoors or outdoors, I give the preferred compost together with watering and feeding needs.
Uses: known uses for individual herbs, subdivided into culinary, medicinal and other uses, demonstrating the vast number of ways herbs have been used throughout history.
Species: identifying the important species and some other closely related selections displaying unique characteristics. For many species there are so many varieties it would be impossible to name them all.
Warning: this is given if herbs are toxic or have adverse effects. If a plant is particularly poisonous, it is indicated with a symbol next to the relevant plant.
Zones: Indicates the plant's northern hardiness when grown in the United States and Canada.

General Details of Herb Growing

Propagation: what you need to propagate your plant whether it be by seed, cutting, layering, or division. Detailed step-by-step instructions are provided for each method.
Planning Your Herb Garden: useful tips in planning a herb garden, together with plans for ten herb gardens.
Herbs in Containers: including useful tips for growing herbs successfully in pots, indoors or outdoors.
Harvesting: including instructions on methods of harvesting, drying, storing and freezing.
Herb Oils, Vinegars and Preserves: methods of making delicious produce from the garden.
Natural Dyes: step-by-step instructions on how to dye your own material to natural colors.
Pests and Diseases: the major pests and diseases and the best organic strategies to cure, and prevent reccurrence of, problems.
Yearly Calendar: a checklist of tasks to be performed season by season, and also identifies the herbs available for harvest at different times of the year.
Climate: defines the way that certain terms are used in the book to describe the range of temperatures a plant needs in order to thrive.
Botanical Names: explains the relationship between the family, genus, species and varieties of a given plant.

Meet the Author

Jekka McVicar has been growing organic herbs for 20 years. Her world-famous herb nursery, Jekka's Herb Farm, has won 59 Royal Horticultural Society gold medals. She is a co-author of Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit.

Penelope Hobhouse's books include Colour in Your Garden and Plants in Garden History. She hosts The Art and Practice of Gardening for Home and Garden Television and is associate editor of Gardens Illustrated magazine.

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