Herbs — Perhaps you know at least a little bit about cooking with them. You’re no doubt aware that oregano helps to make your pizza taste amazing – and that potatoes with parsley plus a little butter taste infinitely better than plain potatoes do. If you’ve ever made Thanksgiving stuffing from scratch, thyme and other herbs were probably a central focus of the stuffing recipe you used. Even if you don’t do much cooking, you probably have at least a vague idea about some of the herbs you find flavorful and appealing.
You’re probably also aware that many herbs and plants have medicinal properties. You’ve surely been advised by other knowledgeable people to drink some Echinacea tea when you have a cold, or to spread some aloe vera gel on your skin when you have a sunburn.
Would you like to learn more than you currently know about herbs, how to use them, and how to grow them? Would you be interested in unlocking the secrets of what each herb is good for – without having to get a degree in botany?
Would you find it helpful to have easy recipes for transforming each type of herb into remedies such as tinctures, teas, salves and lotions you can use for a variety of purposes — including DIY beauty treatments and home remedies? And, would you find it helpful to peek inside an experienced herbalist’s medicine cabinet?
Have you ever started at your spice rack in perplexed frustration, wondering which herbs you should grab as you season the roast or the stew you’re preparing? Do you want a clearer understanding of which herbs are best to use for seasoning various types of culinary dishes?
Are you interested in growing your own herbs? Would you find it helpful to learn about which plants make good companion plants for the various herbs you want to grow? Would you like guidance on figuring out which herbs you should grow in the first place?
If any of these items sound interesting to you, there’s an invaluable book you need to know about. It’s called The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion by Amy K Fewell. Lyons Press is the publisher.
If you’re interested in these topics, you could safely stop reading right here and just go buy this book. The short version of my book review: I highly recommend it. But please do read on if you’d like more insights about why you’d want to own this book.
More Book Details:
ISBN 13: 978-1493034154
ISBN 10: 1493034154
This book is available in the following format(s):
- Softcover With Perfect Binding
- Digital download: Kindle e-book edition
- Nook e-book
Number of Pages: 320 pages
The Focus of This Book
This book is all about herbs and how to use them. It’s part history book, part cook book, part gardening manual, part home remedies, part beauty primer and part veterinary health guide – all with a focus on how herbs can help enhance your life and health.
What You Will Learn From This Book:
Not sure where to start? If you don’t already have a clear idea of which herbs you want to grow or use, Amy will help you figure out how to narrow it down to 5 herbs that would be the best ones for you to start working with.
Why only 5? Well, you’re likely to get overwhelmed if you try to plant every herb discussed in the book – and there are probably bunches of herbs that you’d rarely need or use anyway. 5 is a manageable number of herbs that you’re likely to successfully incorporate into your daily routine.
Amy readily admits that she doesn’t grow all these herbs at once, either. She finds that she uses some of them much more often than she uses others. With that in mind, she gives you a list of the herbs and herbal recipes she keeps on hand in her own medicine cabinet. So if you’d rather skip the up-front decision making about where to focus your energies, you can make it easy on yourself and just start there – or look at her list and adapt it to what you think would work best for your own home or homestead.
Your soil might not be ideal for growing the 5 herbs you decide you want to start with. Perhaps it’s too acidic, or too alkaline. Perhaps it’s too sandy. Maybe it’s too heavy. In some cases, you may need to amend your soil to make it work better for growing the herbs you’ve selected. It just depends. There are herbs that will grow practically anywhere – and then there are herbs that are fussier about their growing conditions. This book includes explanations of important concepts like soil PH and soil amendments you’ll want to know about to maximize your success with growing herbs.
You’ll learn about how and when to harvest your herbs. To do this correctly, you need to understand which part(s) of each herb you’d want to use. With some herbs, you want to harvest the leaves; with others, you use the seeds or the roots. You can use multiple parts of some herbs. Without this information, you will have a really hard time using your herbs correctly. This is one of the essential things you need to understand for successfully cooking with herbs. It’s also essential knowledge if you hope to enjoy success with herbal medicine.
You’ll learn how to dry and store your herbs so you can keep them on hand for future use. Brief drying instructions are included for sun drying, air drying, dehydrator drying and oven drying.
You’ll learn how to save seeds for planting next year. However, this book really doesn’t go into a huge amount of depth on that topic, so that’s one topic where you might later wish to seek out other supplemental articles online or from dedicated gardening books.
You’ll learn a bit about foraging wild herbs and plants, too. In particular, it’s helpful to understand which of the common “weeds” growing in your yard could be useful to you for various purposes.
You’ll find easy, straightforward recipes and instructions for making all kinds of useful concoctions, including savory home-cooked dishes; chemical-free household cleaners; beauty treatments; and home remedies for yourself, your family, your pets and your livestock.
The Best Things About This Book
I think most people will find the generous number of excellent, useful recipes to be one of the most compelling reasons to buy the book. The following are a few examples of the types of recipes included:
- Farmstead roasted chicken
- Simple grass-fed beef steak
- Herbed butters
- Chicken stock
- Fermented dill and turmeric pickles
- Herb vinaigrette
- Chamomile aftershave lotion
- Homemade herbal deodorant: male and female versions
- Herbal bath salts
- Herbal lip balm
- Herbal antibacterial ointment
- Diaper rash salve
- Herbal poultices
- Pain-soothing lotion bars
- Simple goat’s milk soap
- Herbal pink eye solution
- Herbal livestock parasite tincture
- Flea and insect repellent spray
- Urinary tract infection tincture
- Deworming tincture for dogs
This is not a complete recipe list! There are many more recipes than just these included in the book.
The recipes are truly wonderful, and they’re reason enough to want to own this book. However, I think the absolute best thing about this book is that the author gives you information about effective and safe dosages for using each herb, in whichever form(s) you’re likeliest to use it (tinctures, teas, etc). You also get precautions for using each herb – so if there are any known reasons you shouldn’t use it (for example, if it isn’t safe for pregnant women to ingest,) you’ll have that info handy along with the rest of the info about preparing and using that herb. This is something you aren’t likely to get in an herb-themed cook book or gardening book.
In my experience, one of the biggest pitfalls for success in herbal medicine is a lack of understanding about how much of an herb you should use. A lot of people will use an herb, but they don’t use a significant enough dosage to make any difference in whatever their ailment is. Then they conclude that the herb doesn’t work for healing that ailment. This book provides dosage guidance that can help you to avoid that pitfall.
The dosage information is clearly presented in an understandable format that even a novice should be able to use.
Another thing I love about this book: If you’ve made even a minor foray into herbal medicine, you’ve no doubt noticed that herbal tinctures, teas and salves can get expensive if you buy them ready made. This book empowers you to grow your own herbs, and to make your own remedies inexpensively using easy-to-follow recipes.
Of course, it is more work to make your own remedies than it is to buy them at the health food store or online – but if you have found herbal medicine to be prohibitively expensive, or if you want to have more control over what goes into your herbal remedies than you can get otherwise, this book is one possible key to solving either of those issues.
This book has lovely color photos that can help you recognize and identify each herb.
I own other books – mostly gardening books – featuring information about herbs and how to grow them. Some of the others I own are dull, dry and devoid of any discernible point of view. In contrast, the author of this book writes in a warm, friendly and opinionated voice that I find quite refreshing.
Things to Be Aware of Before You Buy This Book
This book is pretty user friendly, and for the most part, you won’t have to plod through a lot of weird medical jargon to understand its contents. However, the author does use some terminology that might not be familiar to someone with zero previous medical knowledge. If you are unfamiliar with basic medical terms like “expectorant” and “anti-inflammatory”, you’ll want to have a dictionary or a search engine handy when you read this book.
About the Author
Amy Fewell lives on a homestead / farm in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains. She has actively used and tested both the recipes and the advice she shares in this book on her own homestead. She is the founder of the Homesteaders of America conference.
Additionally, this book has a foreword by Joel Salatin, who is one of the rock stars of the homesteading movement. Joel is a prolific author. He and his family own and operate a multi-generational family farm in Virginia.
About Your Book Reviewer
When I read a book review, I’m always curious about the reviewer – and, in particular, what makes her qualified to review the book in question.
The intended audience for this book, apparently, is homesteaders, and I’m not a homesteader – I’m only a wannabe homesteader. In fact, until recently, I lived aboard a sailboat. My backyard was the ocean – which is hardly a hospitable environment for growing herbs.
So, what qualifies me to review this book?
When I was a child, my parents planned to be homesteaders (they didn’t call it that, but I think that was their intention). My earliest memories were of life on the rural 25-acre farmhouse property they purchased with plans to transform it into the homestead they wanted. I remember, as a toddler, riding joyously on my daddy’s shoulders as he made the trek to the family garden – and playing in the dirt as he labored.
Unfortunately, that lifestyle was snatched away from me when my parents divorced. I was 6 years old.
From there, my mom took me to temporarily live with my grandparents, who were experienced homesteaders. They had built their own home from the ground up.
Every year, my grandmother grew a massive garden that typically fed her entire family almost all of the food they consumed in a year. She harvested and canned the produce and stored it all in the sizable pantry that they had designed and built themselves.
My grandma didn’t grow the wheat or the sugar she used to make her amazing homemade apple pies, but she grew the apples for them in her own orchard. Her once-a-month grocery shopping list was minimal – consisting of a few things like toilet paper, gummy candies, flour, baking soda, sugar, salt and canning jar lids. She grew pretty much everything else her family consumed.
So, at Grandma’s place, I had the chance to pick and eat cherries right off the cherry tree – and I had the chance to help her dig potatoes, beets, radishes and onions out of the dirt. I discovered foods I never knew existed, things like gooseberries and lemon cucumbers and tiny pear-shaped cherry tomatoes. When Grandma tasked me with shelling the peas, I ate more of them than I put in the bowl. When Grandma tasked me with picking the cherry tomatoes, virtually none of them actually made it back to the farmhouse — because I consumed all the ripe ones I could get my grubby, dirt-stained hands on.
These memories are vivid.
The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion was actually somewhat more challenging for me to read and review than I thought it would be – because this book, through its numerous excellent examples of how to do things the right way, is a reminder that I have made far too many idiotic choices in my life.
I have eaten too many flavorless grocery store tomatoes (should have grown them myself or bought them at the farmer’s market – and, thanks to this book, I am reminded that I should also have paired them with basil).
In the past, I have spent far too much money on useless nasal decongestants and throat lozenges, when I could have been making elderberry syrups and thyme tea (some excellent recipes for these items are included in this book) plus simply eating more garlic.
Let me ask you this. Have you been making these same sorts of dumb choices?
If you have, let’s vow together to do better.
I will do better. You with me?
I think, whether or not you are a homesteader, there is immense value in this book.
Like I said, I am not a homesteader. And if you aren’t a homesteader, either, you might not immediately have a chance to use every last bit of the information presented in this book (like maybe you aren’t raising any chickens, so you’d have no need for the chapter on herbs for chickens and other poultry).
So what? Honestly, one chapter you won’t use right now doesn’t invalidate the significant volume of information in this book you will be able to use.
It’s true that you’ll likely get the best value from this book if you are either already a homesteader, or you’re working your way towards that lifestyle. But, if you are a human being who needs to eat food, or a human being who occasionally gets hurt / injured and needs remedies, and you have an interest in figuring out how herbs could help you with either of those types of needs, this book is likely to be useful to you. It’s irrelevant whether you live on a 40-acre rural ranch, or you live in the suburbs, or, for that matter, whether you live in a sailboat.
I’m delighted to recommend this book to others, homesteaders or not.
With a cover price of only $24.95, this book will more than pay for itself the first time you use it to save yourself a trip to the emergency room (or the veterinarian) using one of the suggested herbal remedies — because, even assuming you have good health insurance, you’re probably looking at a copay of $50-$150 for an emergency room visit. For that copay money, you could buy the book PLUS even have some money left over to spend on seeds or herbs.
How likely is it that this book could help you prevent an emergency room visit? Well, that depends largely on you and your lifestyle – but the book does contain information on herbs that can help you stop bleeding, heal wounds, reduce pain, help digestive issues, bring down a fever and help with all kinds of other common issues you and your loved ones are likely to experience.
But it really depends a lot on you and whether you’d actually be likely to use and apply this information. If you are likely to actually read, absorb and act on the information presented in this book, I think the book is definitely more than worth its cover price.
Where to Buy This Book:
- Click here to shop for this book at Amazon. If you’re even mildly curious about this book’s contents, it’s worth the click to Amazon, because they have some excerpts available on the book’s product page. The “look inside” feature is enabled, which allows you to read and evaluate some highlights from this title. You’ll also find additional reader reviews with more insights about what other readers found appealing about this book.
- Click here to learn more about this book at the publisher’s website.
Similar Books and Related Resources
This is the section of my review where I’d ordinarily point you in the direction of other comparable books you might want to consider in addition to, or instead of this one. However, in this case, I am not aware of any book that’s precisely comparable to this one. If you want a beginner’s herbalism manual that takes you through every step of the process, from growing the herbs to harvesting and using them, this is the best reference I know of for that purpose.
There are more in-depth gardening books available – and there are zillions of herb-themed cook books available. There are also more in-depth herbal medicine references available. But I do not know of another book that successfully integrates all these concepts into one such easily accessible volume.
I do, however, have one additional book recommendation if you’re interested in DIY recipes for chemical-free household cleaners: It’s The Modern Organic Home by Natalie Wise. Like The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion, the recipes are a main highlight of Natalie’s book. Both books also promote a sustainable and healthful lifestyle. If you’re interested in ditching a dependence on unsustainable chemical concoctions, both books are ones you’d want to consider having available in your personal library.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Natalie Wise on behalf of DecoratorsWisdom.com. I invite you to check out the interview if you’d like more insights about Natalie’s excellent book.
Click Here to see more of my book reviews. Thanks so much for your interest.
This page was last updated on 7-20-2019.