This is where this book makes sense. Margaret Roberts is well known as a health writer, broadcaster and gardener, and I’ve always wanted to visit her Herbal Centre at de Wildt in the North West Province – with its nursery, labyrinth, apothecary, and tea garden – but its web site http://www.margaretroberts.co.za/ says that it’s only open on Wednesdays. Sigh.
But that’s alright, because Ms. Roberts is free with her information.
This book is like having her in your garden with you. Her Herbal Centre isn’t just a business: it’s where she and her team grow and test the plants about which she writes, and record their findings – and where she established a seed bank in 2006 (it’ll be opened in 2025, and is “filled with seeds of both food plants and medicinal plants grown here… Many of the plants are recorded in this book.”
I studied horticulture, but I’ve never known, that, for example, the silver birch (page 194) is considered a herb – and that it’s currently being researched for use in the treatment of skin cancer and lupus, and that its ancient applications – for the treatment of arthritis, for instance – are presently being verified.
For the tourism industry, though, this book will probably be most useful in the kitchen, and in the guest libraries of facilities that have their own herb gardens. Many of the plants listed – parsley, nasturtium, garlic – will already be staples in your culinary arsenal, and I’m sure you’ll find others you’d like to try. Maidenhair fern, for example (mostly in decoration, but it’s edible, and you can add fresh fronds to apple cider vinegar for pickling and sauces). Or carnations (next time I come for tea, please make a batch of carnation syrups for the pancakes I know you’re just itching to make.)
‘My 100 Favourite Herbs’ is really worth having – and you can buy it on line here