The usual definition of an herb is that it is:
(1) any plant without persistent woody stems, or
(2) a plant that is valued for its savory, medicinal or aromatic qualities.
Spices are any part of a tree or woody vine that is used for flavoring, or the roots, flowers, seeds or fruits of herbaceous plants, the leaves of which are not used for flavoring.
Nevertheless, the leaves of several woody, perennial shrubs and trees such as rosemary, sage and bay laurel are considered to be herbs. There are so many other exceptions to these rules that I believe they have more to do with geography, politics and economics than with botany. For example, Europeans consider the buds and flowers of several woody plants whose leaves are not used for flavoring to be herbs. Lavender, roses and capers are woody perennials whose flowers and buds are held in high esteem by many herb enthusiasts, while other shrubs and trees with similar properties are said to produce spices. The rule seems to be that any seasoning agent grown in Europe is a herb; if grown somewhere else, it is likely to be a spice. Thus it follows that garlic is usually considered to be a herb, and ginger is a spice. For this discussion, I will call any tree whose leaves, flowers or buds are eaten or used for seasoning a herb tree.
Many herb trees additionally provide savory roots, bark, fruit, seed pods and seeds with their useful leaves or flowers. Most of these items have classically been part of the spice trade. We are fortunate that many of these herb trees can be grown in the United States, but sadly, only the bay laurel is widely appreciated in the western world.
An annotated list of some of the more interesting species follows.
Cnidoscolus chayamansa McVaugh and C. aconitifolius I.M. Johnson. Chaya, spinach tree. Both species range from Southern Mexico to Costa Rica; the latter ranges to British Honduras. C. aconitifolius is taller and somewhat more hardy, and each is domesticated. The leaves of both species are similar, tasty and nutritious, but stinging hairs cover many varieties much like nettles and require gloves for picking. Cooking eliminates the troublesome hairs along with some unwanted cyanic glycosides which are present in small quantities. Leaves along with the tender stems cook up much like spinach, but have a different flavor, do not cook down and remain crunchy.
Chaya is deciduous during very cold weather and is tolerant of a variety of soils and climates as long as frost is minimal. In its native habitat C. aconitifolius grows to a small evergreen tree 30 feet tall. It is most easily propagated from cuttings but grows readily from fresh seed.
Cinnamomum cassia Blume. Cassia or Chinese cinnamon. The flower buds of this evergreen tree are the 'cassia buds' of commerce and are used in Southeast Asian curries, although Westerners usually dislike its flavor. Cassia bark, usually sold as cinnamon, has an excellent flavor and is an essential ingredient of Chinese five-spice. True or Ceylon cinnamon, C. zeylanicum Nees, is less pungent and more delicate.
Young cassia plants are frost-sensitive, but mature trees are moderately hardy, and a 60-foot tree blooms in the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia. Cassia is grown from seed or semi-woody cuttings. Never confuse this plant with the pods of Cassia acutifolia Del. and similar species, as they are 'cassia', or senna, a well-known laxative.
Cinnamomum tamala Nees, and Eberm, Indian cassia, Tejpat. This 30-foot evergreen tree is native to the Himalayas where it grows to an elevation of 8,000 feet. Its leaves, 'tejpat', are classically collected in the fall from trees after they are nine years old. The leaves are then sun dried for three or four days and are ready for use in northern Indian cooking, much like bay in Europe. The bark, Indian cassia, is inferior to true cassia but is an inexpensive adulterant.
Young trees are tender, and require some shade. This genus is known to require good drainage. It is grown in the continental U.S. only in Florida but should do well in other areas. Propagation is from seed or semi-mature cuttings, and I have not found a reliable source for either.
Laurus nobilis L. Sweet bay, bay laurel. This familiar evergreen tree can reach 45 feet in the ground or maintained as a shrub if left in a pot. It is native to the northern Mediterranean coast and thrives wherever the climate is not too harsh. It is polygamous, and will sometimes have male, female and hermaphroditic flowers simultaneously. Fresh bay leaves are bitter, spicy and pungent in taste, and some people find the bitterness of the fresh leaf to be objectionable. To get rid of the bitterness found in the fresh leaves they should be left on the shelf for a few days. Fresh or dried leaves flavor soups and stews in European and Middle Eastern cuisine and are always removed after cooking. Fresh leaves are easily dried in a few weeks by covering with a board to prevent curling, never dry them in the sun as the flavorful essential oils in the leaf will be lost immediately and resemble very old dried leaves. Bay leaves will season cooking oil or vinegar if left to soak for several weeks.
Bay laurel trees grow from seed and sucker freely, making propagation easy. Potted plants are also a frequent nursery item.
Persea americana Mill. Avocado. The fruit of this large Central American evergreen tree is available commercially throughout much of North and South America. While best known as a salad fruit, its fragrant leaves appear in a variety of ways as a seasoning agent in central and southern Mexico. Fresh or dried leaves are usually toasted in a pan and then used much as bay laurel, or ground and added to a variety of dishes.
The pleasant anise-hazelnut aroma is only found in the Mexican race, considered by some to be a separate species. Persea drymifolia, Schlech. and Cham. Leaves of the Guatemalan and West Indian races have little or no aroma. West Indian varieties require hot, humid conditions and are not grown in California, but grow in abundance in southern Florida. Conversely, Mexican varieties do not do well in southern Florida and grow only in the northern part of that state, southern California and sparingly in southern Texas.
The Mexican varieties - Bacon, Duke, Mexicola, and Zutano - are all popular in California. Mexicola is probably the hardiest of the lot, and its leaves have the best aroma to my nose. This variety produces consistent crops of small but tasty fruit. Guatemalan varieties popular on the west coast are Hass, Reed, and Wurtz (usually sold as Dwarf or Littlecado). The very popular California-grown Fuerte is a cross between Mexican and Guatemalan races. In Florida a similar hybrid is grown, the Lula, which is relatively cold tolerant but subject to scab, making it less desirable for home gardeners. Mexican hybrids do have some aroma but require larger quantities of the leaf for flavor.
Avocado trees are frost-sensitive and often die whenever temperatures fall very far below freezing. Nurseries usually carry named varieties wherever avocados are grown. Seedlings are notoriously variable and are usually barren or have poor quality fruit.
Persea borbonia L. Sweet-bay, red bay, Florida mahogany. This evergreen swamp tree reaches 60 feet in its native habitat that runs from the Southern Atlantic coast to Texas. It is best known for its hard and attractive wood, but its dried leaves are a classic ingredient in Creole cooking. Medsger states that the flavor of the leaf is similar to the bay laurel: "...I find practically no difference in the flavor produced by each..." He goes on to suggest that 'sweet bay' and 'laurel' leaves sold in country grocery and drugstores are from this species. The leaves are used to stuff fowl, flavor confections, roasts, stews and soups, especially crab gumbo.
The tree is found in sandy, well-drained areas of the coastal plain from Delaware to Florida and on to Texas. It is rarely available commercially and is propagated from seed.
Unlike true bay, fresh leaves are not used for flavor. Leaves would be gathered in spring or early summer from fresh growth, washed and spread out to dry. After thorough drying, they can be stored in an airtight container where they will keep for a year or more.
Sassafras albidum Nees. Sassafras. This hardy native of the eastern and southern seaboard of the United States will grow to 60 feet. Gumbo file is nothing more than the dried and ground leaves of this tree; it is added to soups and stews for flavoring and thickening. Two or three fresh leaves when steeped in a cup of boiling water yield a pleasant, viscous beverage. Young, tender leaves are an interesting addition to salads.
Sassafras tea is traditionally made from Sassafras roots and sumac berries, especially those of Rhus glabra. A century ago 'Godfrey's cordial' was made from opium and sassafras roots. Unfortunately, sassafras roots contain a considerable amount of safrole, which causes liver damage and tumors in mice. Curiously, the small quantity of safrole contained in basil, black pepper and nutmeg has not resulted in prohibition of these items.
Sassafras grows from suckers or fresh seed, and plants sometimes appear in nurseries. It produces offshoots wherever its roots are disturbed; thus harvesting roots encourages suckering. Those who wish to propagate from seed should know that this tree is dioecious, i.e. both male and female trees are necessary for fertile seed.
Umbellularia californica Nutt. California laurel, California bay, Oregon myrtle. This is a hardy evergreen tree that is native to the western slope of the Sierra Nevada where it sometimes grows to 80 feet. Its leaves are similar to bay laurel, but they are stronger and so pungently aromatic that they may induce headache from prolonged inhalation of the vapor of crushed fresh leaves. One sniff easily distinguishes California from bay laurel when fresh. Drying the leaves reduces the intensity of the aroma and makes the two species difficult to tell apart, especially after some time in the bottle. Many people, however, prefer the livelier flavor of fresh California laurel to the bay laurel. Spurgeon asserts that "most of the leaves sold in this country come from the domestic laurel," although McCormick and Co. Inc., states on their Schilling brand bay laurel label that they sell Lauris nobilis, implying that other brands contain the 'other' species.
British authors have said that California laurel is either poisonous or greatly inferior to the bay laurel, an attitude detrimental to their interests because this species should grow well in Britain while the bay laurel does not. Like the bay laurel, this tree suckers, but is more restrained, and it is easily trained as a shade tree. It is especially useful for the north side of a dwelling, as it will grow in full shade.
Sesbania grandiflora L Agati, katuri. This small evergreen tree is native to India and Southeast Asia. It is grown for its large white, pendulous, 2.5-inch long flowers, which have an unusual flavor and garlicky odor. Fairchild wrote; "As we rode through the town of Peradeniya one day, my eye caught a large mass of white flowers hanging in a little shopkeeper's door and, as I realized the shopkeeper was not a florist, I stopped to inquire and found that these great ivory blossoms were to eat. The shopkeeper took me into his small plantation, over looking the river, where I found his two small daughters picking the agati blossoms for market. The flowers seemed too pretty for use as a vegetable; yet here was a plantation." There is a red-flowered variety developed in Hawaii that is not used for culinary purposes. The agati' s green pods are sometimes pickled and eaten as a salad in Malaysia, and its leaves are of great scientific interest because they contain an unidentified chemical that lowers blood sugar in diabetics.
This is a fast-growing, frost-sensitive plant, and like most legumes, is easily propagated from seed. It might be grafted onto the hardy rootstock of S. tripetii (Poit.) Hort. for better cold tolerance.
Moringa oleifera Juss. Ben, horseradish or drumstick tree, malunggay. This 30-foot evergreen tree is native to the Himalayan plain and is cultivated pantropically. All non-woody growth of this tree is edible, and different ethnic groups traditionally use different parts of the plant. The leaves are quite nutritious and contain abundant quantities of protein, iron, vitamin C and A as well as other nutrients. Young roots and flowers have the flavor of horseradish. The roots are an acceptable horseradish substitute and the flowers are interesting in salads and curries. Young pods resemble snap beans, and mature pods, called drumsticks, are eaten after cooking by pulling through the teeth much like artichoke bracts.
The seeds contain Ben oil, a colorless and tasteless oil, which has no aroma of its own, and for that reason it is highly prized by the perfume industry. From ancient times the oil has provided food and lamp oil; it does not become rancid and burns without smoke, and the seeds are still roasted and eaten like peanuts. Moringas grow from seed or three- foot cuttings. It truly seems to enjoy pruning.
Myrica pensylvanica Loisel., M. cerifa L., etc. Bayberry, waxberry. Six or so species are native to the eastern seaboard of North America, another grows in the mountains of California and Oregon and a few others grow worldwide. They are all deciduous to partially evergreen shrubs or trees of varying heights to 30 feet and are usually grown for their berries, from which wax for candles is extracted. Duke quotes Fernald, et al: "The leaves and berries are an attractive and agreeable substitute for bay for use in flavoring soups, etc. They are really good." The leaves were widely used by early American settlers on the east coast of the United States and Canada as a substitute for bay laurel.
The leaves and two-winged fruits of the shrub. M. gale, the bog myrtle or sweet gale, are similarly used as a bay substitute in local areas where the plant grows in Europe. M. gale is also found in North America, but there is little to suggest its use as a seasoning agent here.
These plants tolerate cold weather, sandy soil and sun, but need ample water during the summer. Bayberry is grown from seed, can easily be propagated from suckers and is sometimes found in nurseries.
Feijoa sellowiana Berg. Pineapple guava, feijoa. This attractive small South American tree will survive some frost and is one of the hardiest of all subtropical fruit trees. It is usually grown for its aromatic fruit but should be known for its beautiful, fragrant and delicious flowers and petioles that will enhance any salad or punchbowl.
Most varieties need cross-pollination for fruit, although Coolidge and Pineapple Gem self-fertilize. The feijoa is easily propagated by layering or cuttings and is a standard item in nurseries wherever it thrives.
Pimenta dioica L. Allspice tree. This tall evergreen tree is native to the West Indies and Central America and is best known for its unripe, sun-dried berries which have the flavor of clove, cinnamon and nutmeg, its fresh aromatic leaves will impart a delightful aroma to the air and are useful in cooking. One leaf when simmered in oil extracts the delightful flavor and carries the wonderful aroma to the oil. A leaf may also be conveniently used like bay. A fragrant tea made from fresh leaves is popular in the Bahamas and Mexico.
The flowers are hermaphroditic, although the tree is sometimes called "polygamo-dioecious." It produces primarily male and female trees, with rare hermaphroditic trees and an occasional male that bears small quantities of fruit. In general, male and female trees are necessary to produce fruit. All this reminds me of the sex life of the papaya.
This tree is grown commercially in Jamaica and a few other tropical places and has surprisingly set fruit in San Diego and southern Florida. It is a close relative of P. racemosa J.W. Moore., the bay rum tree, whose leaves were formerly distilled with rum. Allspice is most easily propagated from very fresh seed which should be left in the fruit if several days are to elapse from picking to planting. It will grow from cuttings, and trees are sometimes found in nurseries. Keep these trees in partial shade for the first year and protect from frost for several more.
Syzygium polyanthum Walp. Salam, Indian Bay. This 80-foot tall evergreen tree is native to Indonesia and is widely grown throughout Southeast Asia and into portions of India. Oche states that it grows from sea level to an elevation of 6000 feet in Java, suggesting that it should do well in many parts of the United States. Its young air-dried leaves resemble bay, although its flavor is closer to that of curry leaf. They are a common ingredient in a variety of Southeast Asian and Indian foods.
It is grown from fresh seed or cuttings, both of which are difficult to obtain in the western hemisphere. Commercial dried leaves, daun salam or 'bay,' are usually available in Asian markets, but are a poor substitute for recently harvested leaves.
Pandanus odorus Thunb. Pandan, fragrant screwpine, bai toey. The leaves of this small Southeast Asian tree are placed in the rice pot and add add a pleasant vanilla-like fragrance. The tree is monoecious, that is, male and female flowers develop on separate trees. Dried daun pandan or bai toey leaves appear in many Asian markets. The scent of pandanus leaves develops only on wilting; the fresh, intact plants hardly have any odour. On the other hand, dried pandanus leaves lose their fragrance quite quickly. Another source of this flavor is 'kewra essence,' obtainable in small bottles at Indian markets; it is an essential ingredient of a complex rice dish called birani and Sinhalese curries. Only a few drops are necessary. P. odorus does not set seed and grows from offshoots. It is frost-sensitive, and requires good drainage and ample summer water. I have found it only once in a specialized nursery.
Citrus hystrix DC. Caffer lime, limau purut (Malaysia, ma-krut (Thailand), jeruk purut (Indonesia). The leaf of this small Southeast Asian citrus is distinctive because of its very large, winged petiole, which gives the appearance of a double leaf. The leaf and petiole are cooked much as bay or ground and added to curries in Southeast Asia. These leaves lack the musky flavor of other citrus leaves and when combined with galangale and coconut milk impart an unmistakable and distinctive flavor.
The fruit is small, warty or wrinkled and has very sour juice. The rind is bitter, but rind, fruit and juice have many uses in Southeast Asia including cooking. The tree requires good drainage and grows under the same conditions as the Mexican (Key) lime. It is sometimes sold by nurseries where citrus grows.
Murraya koenigi Spreng. Curry leaf tree. This native of the Himalayan foothills resembles M. paniculata (L). Jack, the familiar orange jessamine, and grows to 30 feet in its native habitat. In India it is often ground and added to curry ingredients; it gives authentic Madras curry powder its unique aroma and flavor. It is often briefly fried in oil and then removed at the start of cooking in order to flavor the oil. In Southeast Asia its pungent leaves are treated much like bay but may be eaten or removed as desired. The flavor is not always liked by Europeans and is probably an acquired taste for most people. Dried leaves are available in markets but are often flavorless.
This plant is tender when young, slow grower from seed and is difficult to start from cuttings. It is usually propagated from suckers. Once established, it should be fertilized in the same way as citrus. It is of interest that citrus plants have been successfully grafted onto Murraya rootstock.
Zanthoxylum piperitum DC. Sansho, Japanese pepper. This 20-foot-tall deciduous tree is native to Japan, Korea and North China. Young fresh leaves, kenome, are quite popular as a garnish in soup and fish dishes. The ground dried fruit, sansho, is a fragrant pepper especially popular with fish.
This plant can be grown from fresh seed or cuttings obtained from a friend and is sometimes available in nurseries. Provide it with good drainage and full sun, for otherwise it is not apt to set fruit. It is tender when young and an old Japanese proverb states: "Sansho you get from a nursery always dies." Do not confuse this plant with Zanthoxylum alatum Steud., the winged prickly ash, the seeds of which are Chinese or Szechwan pepper, an essential ingredient of Oriental five spice.
Some of the preceding trees are known worldwide, and all find use in a recognized cuisine. Many other trees that have leaves and flowers used locally by small numbers of people all over the world were left out of this listing for a variety of reasons.
For example Prunus laurocerasus L., the cherry laurel, and P. virginiana L., the common choke cherry, are species praised by some people, but each contains enough cyanide to demand very careful use.
Oxydendrum arboreum L., the sorrel tree of the eastern United States, has leaves that were eaten by American Indians, but were later shunned by European settlers. It is no longer used by any present-day cuisine and was probably famine food.
Bauhinia purpuria L. and B. variegata L., the purple and variegated orchid trees of the Orient, are additional examples. The flowers and buds of the former and the leaves and pods of the latter are eaten in India; they were left out because the bauhinias have flowers and leaves with an interesting but bizarre taste and are somewhat laxative.
Most of the previously listed temperate species will grow without difficulty in areas of the United States that have warm climates; others will grow almost anywhere. A few of the tropical species, however, will give many home gardeners a certain amount of trouble, and it is probable that no one will be able to grow all the preceding species at a single site. It is heartening to know, however, that prospects for success can be greatly enhanced by careful placement in the garden. Elements to consider when selecting a spot for a given plant are: sunlight, temperature, humidity and frost protection, i.e. the microclimate, plus the character of the soil and its drainage.
It is important to understand that most trees from the tropics spend their first years in a humid atmosphere in broken or full shade beneath taller vegetation. As one proceeds north, the sun becomes less intense; nevertheless, young tropical plants usually will do better in broken shade than in full sun.
Weather is what you see when you look out of the window; climate is the cumulative effect of weather over time. Farmers, with many acres to plant, have long learned to deal with their local climate by careful selection of crops and accurate planting schedules. Amateur gardeners, on the other hand, can afford to be more adventurous, as their livelihood is not at risk. The average home gardener plants mostly easy-to-grow species with only a small number of troublesome ones. Persons who try to grow difficult plants should use carefully selected areas within the confines of their garden that will cater to the special requirements of each plant. A good example of this principle is provided by nature and is seen in east-west canyons, where natural vegetation differs significantly on the north and south facing slopes as to growth, density and species.
Houses and other structures always cause microclimatic variations because they cast shadows during the day and radiate heat both day and night. Radiated heat is very important because it can offer considerable frost protection to plants that grow close to a building. Many plants like a certain amount of shade, and generally speaking, plants placed on the immediate north side of buildings receive sun only in early morning and late afternoon during the spring, summer and fall, and receive little heat at night. Plants on the east side receive sun in the morning before the air and ground have warmed up, while plants on the west side get afternoon sun when the plants are already warm. In the evening, the west side of a building radiates more heat than the east side because it stores solar heat until sundown, while the east side is in shade past noon. The south side of a dwelling reflects sunlight all day and radiates heat both day and night.
Cold air is heavier than warm air, causing it to go down and warm air to go up. Thus, when planting on a slope, one may confidently predict that plants that are on higher ground will be a few degrees warmer at night than those below.
A canopy of evergreen trees provides shade during the day and keeps the underlying plants cooler at that time. At night, it slows radiation and keeps them warmer. After the leaves fall from deciduous trees, more light will reach the underlying plants. But at night the radiation of heat is unimpeded during the cold season. Overhanging roofs will slow radiation at night and can provide variable shade during the day on a seasonal basis.
Humidity can be increased in several ways: greenhouses retain humidity, and the addition of misters can fully saturate the air within if desired. Screen houses and misters are another reliable means of raising humidity in dry areas. Watering patios and other semi-enclosed areas reliably increases the level of moisture in the surrounding area. Swimming pools are another constant source of atmospheric moisture when available.
The root systems of many plants have exacting requirements regarding soil characteristics, suggesting that intimate knowledge of a plant is native habitat should provide information about the conditions under which it might flourish. Unfortunately, data of this type is rarely available, and one usually has to rely on generalizations.
It is safe to say that most tropical plants do not thrive in poorly drained, alkaline or clay soils. Many will not survive long periods of wet, cold soil, and few will tolerate more than a minor amount of frost. Some of these problems can be resolved by using raised planters or large pots, both of which improve drainage, allow precise manipulation of soil characteristics and elevate plants above the coldest air.
Little is known about the bacteria and fungi that are found in association with roots systems. Rhizobia are the best known of these organisms because they are essential for healthy root systems in legumes. Home gardeners should be aware that temperate Rhizobia and fungi differ somewhat from tropical species that are rarely found in cooler soil.
Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungi that attach to roots of certain plants and aid in the transport of water and nutrients. They are not well understood, but it is acknowledged that many species require their presence for vigorous root development.
Most growers start their seeds in pots or flats filled with sterile medium that is totally lacking in bacteria and fungi, and rely on chance for the development of soil flora. It is my practice to inoculate soil with mixed species of Rhizobia whenever planting legumes, and I give all seedlings a healthy scoop of steamy compost with the hope of supplying some of the missing bacteria or fungi.
Obtaining seeds, plants or cuttings of unusual species is often difficult. Even when one is able to find seeds, successful germination is often impossible. One reason for failure is that tropical seeds have little need to develop hardiness, and are usually ready to sprout when they hit the ground. After weeks or months of travel in harsh conditions, they are often dead on arrival. Bottom heat speeds the germination of many temperate plant seeds and is usually necessary for tropical species. One need only recall that temperatures of lowland rain forests rarely drop below 70°F, at any time. Hardy seed is the opposite problem in which germination can sometimes be induced by individually scarifying the seed coat followed by soaking in water. Seed from plants that winter over in snow may need chilling in the refrigerator or time in the freezer to break dormancy.
An additional benefit of growing herb trees is that besides providing tasty leaves and flowers, these plants are perennial, and once established, require little care. I am certain that there are many other herb trees with savory leaves and delicious flowers. Other plants were left out of this list because they are considered to be shrubs.
1. Bailey, L.H. and E.Z. Bailey, 1978. Hortus Third, Macmillan, NY. The standard taxonomic reference for American authors.
2. Bailey L.H. 11929, 3 vols. The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. Macmillan, NY. An excellent general reference work dealing in all areas of interest to anyone wanting to grow a variety of plants.
3. Burkill, I.H. 1966. A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, 2 Vols. Ministry of Agriculture and Co-Operatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A classical ethnobotanical work that covers most of Southeast Asia. Originally published in 1935 and revised by the author in 1966, it is still current and unsurpassed.
4. Duke, J.A. 1985. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. CRC Press. FL. Despite the title many culinary herbs and spices and their essential oils and other chemicals are discussed.
5. Fairchild, David G. 1930. Exploring for Plants, Macmillan, NY. A narrative of a botanist's travels in out-of-the way places and his search for unusual plants.
6. Martin, F.W. and Ruberte, R.M. 1975. Edible Leaves of the Tropics, 2nd edition, U.S. Dept of Commerce, N.T.I.S., Springfield, VA. This is a poor quality reprint of a 1980 reprint by the Gordon Press of NY of the 1979 printing of the same title by the Antillian College Press, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. It covers a wealth of material with emphasis on the Caribbean basin.
7. Martin, F.W. 1984. Handbook of Tropical Crops. CRC Press, FL. Undoubtedly the most concise volume on this subject and a good companion volume to Purseglove's Tropical Crops.
8. Medsger, D.P. 1939. Edible Wild Plants. Macmillan, NY. The most durable of the hundreds of books written about native American food plants. Reprinted paperbound in 1972 by Collier Books, NY.
9. Morton, J.F. et al. 1976. Herbs and Spices. Golden Press, NY. This is a small inexpensive paperback book that is filled with an incredible amount of information. Copies of it are not always to be found in my home, because I keep giving it to interested friends.
10. Nat.Acad. of Science, 1975. Underexploited Tropical Plants with Promising Economic Value. N.A.S. Washington DC. This fascinating volume is included here because of its excellent chapter on chaya, but the entire book will be of interest to many people who enjoy unusual and useful plants.
11. 0che, J.J. and v.d. Brink, R.C.B. 1980. Vegetables of the Dutch East Indies. A.Asher & Co. B. V. Amsterdam. Reprint of the 1939 edition. Oche did a thorough study of the fruits and vegetables of what is now Indonesia. This is an English translation from the Dutch.
12. Petalot, Alfred, 1952-1954. Les Plantes Medicinales du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam. 4 vols. Archives des Recherches Agronomiques au Cambodge, au Laos et au Vietnam, Saigon. Four large paperback volumes in the French tradition cover the edible and medicinal plants of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Unfortunately this book is out of print, in short supply and is rarely found in libraries. I briefly borrowed the set from a Vietnamese botanist.
13. Purseglove, J. W. 1968-1972 . Tropical Crops. 2 Vols. Longman Gp.Ltd., UK. Current state of-the-art coverage of all major crops grown worldwide in the tropics. Both volumes are quite reasonable and suitable for home libraries.
14. Purseglove, J.W. et a1. 1981. Spices. Longman Gp.Ltd. UK. Extensive coverage of the commercial production of spices. This probably contains more information than most readers want to know.
15. Rosengarten, F., JR.1969. The Book of Spices. Jove Pubs., NY. Written by the manager of several plantations in Guatemala who later became the president of a spice company where his work took him from Europe to the Far East. This book covers the history, botany, production and use of herbs and spices from his personal viewpoint. It is complete with recipes and is available in paperback.
16. Spurgeon, Dolores F. 1982. The Pungent Bay, Herb Quarterly, 13:39. A short article about the California bay.
17. Strobart, Tom 1970. Herbs, Spices and Flavorings. Penguin, G.B. Tom Strobart gives a colorful and first-hand account of many aspects of herblore gathered during his wide travels.
18. Tanaka, T. 1984. Tanaka's Cyclopedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Pub. Co. Tokyo, Japan. This voluminous economic dictionary's emphasis is on the Far East. It has the distinction of listing references for further study for each species.
19. Uphof., J.C., Th.1968. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Verlag von J. Cramer, Stechert Hafner Service Agency, Inc., NY. This is the 'standard' economic dictionary in the English language.
20. Watt, George. 1972. 10 Vols. A Dictionary of the Economic Products of India. Periodical Experts, Delhi. Reprint of the 1888 edition. This is the first comprehensive ethnobotanical study published in the English language and the second in any language, the first being: Rumphius. George Everard, Herbarium Amboinense, written in 1663 and published in 1736 in Latin and Dutch. Watt's storehouse of information was later updated by him in 1908 in The Commercial Products of India, two volumes reprinted as one in 1966. His work has inspired generations of writers.
21. The Wealth of India. 1950-1976. 12 Vols. bound in 13. Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, New Delhi. This set is basically Watt brought up to date. Without question, it is at present the most comprehensive coverage of good plants for any region of the world. It also surveys many other areas of production. Considering the cost of current scientific books in this country, this set is an incredible bargain, and while it is not exactly suited for the average home, it should be in the library of every university and botanical garden in the nation.
Extract from California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc. Journal Volume 21. 1989.
DATE: July 1990
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