Need a starter book on growing and using herbs, or one to stir your imagination? From Shakespearan gardens to herb jelly, Herbs! Creative Herb Garden Themes and Projects (by Judy Lowe, Cool Springs Press, $19.95) offers an abundance of concise, useful information.
Those humble chives and parsley growing in our gardens have quite a history..herbs are not only aromatic, flavorful, and sometimes beautiful, but also medicinal, cultural, historical, ritualistic and even literary.
From Biblican mentions of dill and coriander to a design for a Peter Rabbit herb garden (pole bean tepee, plenty of lettuces, and comforting chamomile for tea), the book is light, fun, well-illustrated and might well spark ideas about how to use herbs you grow already. And if you want to add more herbs, the color encyclopedia of the easiest/most useful herbs will help you choose which deserve garden space. Recipes range from bread-and-butter pickles to pizza and ginger peppermint tea.
If you simply want to know how to make potpourri, use lemon balm, or wonder about the medicinal uses of parsley (it's chewed to clear the smell of alcohol from the breath and helps settle the stomach; parsley root is a laxative) you'll find the information here.
If the book has a fault, it's the wide variety of topics and approaches, from Shakespearian gardens to herb jelly; of course, that's a reflection of its subject and the roles herbs have played in human life for centuries.
"I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows" (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
"She was the sweet marjoram of the salad" (All's Well That Ends Well)