The Herbal Kitchen is a good primer for someone starting off in the study and use of herbs. The more familiar reader may not find much new in the information but will likely still enjoy the recipes. There's a general information section on 50 common herbs and spices that is similar to other traditional herbals with uses and traditions associated with them. Unlike a standard cookbook, there is only one chapter that is dedicated to meals. Most of the recipes are for drinks, vinegars, pestos and other items that will enhance your cooking or health. The use of common herbs means you can probably walk into a well stocked kitchen and make something immediately. Other recipes will require planning ahead to get the ingredients.

The recipes come out of the extensive experience of the author and herbal educator Kami McBride. As the author lives in California, her experience in growing and harvesting is specific to that west coast climate. If you are buying your herbs anyway or live in this kind of warmer climate, no problem. If you live somewhere colder, be aware that the seasons in which items are harvested will be different and your ability to grow these plants may be limited to indoor pots.

Starting with herbal waters, which is nothing more than water flavored with herbs, and herbal smoothies, even the non-cook will find something they are capable of doing. When throwing a party, the unusual drink recipes such as Rose Cooler with rose petal-rose hip tea and white wine among other ingredients, will make your event memorable. The author promotes many herbal health benefits with recipes like immune juice and rejuvenation tea.

For the more adventurous, herbal honey, herbal vinegar, herbal cordial and herbal ghee stretch your skills and would make welcome gifts. A number of the recipes purport medicinal benefits to help with colds or even flexibility. Zealous in her promotion of herbs for health, health nuts may approve and the rest of us will pick and choose whether to try the Love Your Liver Sprinkle. The herbal pestos will add some variety to your culinary repertoire. Pesto can be made with so much more than basil! Herbal sprinkles and salts are another way to increase the use of herbs in your cooking. There is one chapter on seasonal recipes for meals such as herby meatballs for winter and fennel chicken salad for summer. The book finishes off with herbal baths and foot soaks.


~review by Larissa Carlson Viana

Author: Kami McBride
Red Wheel/Weiser
299 pages, $18.95