For centuries herbs and spices have been an integral part of many of the world’s great cuisines. But spices have a history of doing much more than adding life to bland foods. They have been the inspiration for, among other things, trade, exploration, and poetry. Priests employed them in worship, incantations, and rituals, and shamans used them as charms to ward off evil spirits. Nations fought over access to and monopoly of certain spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg, when they were rare commodities. Not only were many men’s fortunes made in the pursuit of spices, spices at many periods throughout history literally served as currency.
In Culinary Herbs and Spices of the World, Ben-Erik van Wyk offers the first fully illustrated, scientific guide to nearly all commercial herbs and spices in existence. Van Wyk covers more than 150 species—from black pepper and blackcurrant to white mustard and white ginger—detailing the propagation, cultivation, and culinary uses of each. Introductory chapters capture the essence of culinary traditions, traditional herb and spice mixtures, preservation, presentation, and the chemistry of flavors, and individual entries include the chemical compounds and structures responsible for each spice or herb’s characteristic flavor. Many of the herbs and spices van Wyk covers are familiar fixtures in our own spice racks, but a few—especially those from Africa and China—will be introduced for the first time to American audiences. Van Wyk also offers a global view of the most famous use or signature dish for each herb or spice, satisfying the gourmand’s curiosity for more information about new dishes from little-known culinary traditions.
People all over the world are becoming more sophisticated and demanding about what they eat and how it is prepared. Culinary Herbs and Spices of the World will appeal to those inquisitive foodies in addition to gardeners and botanists.
Plants have been used to treat disease throughout human history. On a clay slab that dates back approximately five thousand years, the Sumerians recorded medicinal recipes that made use of hundreds of plants, including poppy, henbane, and mandrake. During the Middle Ages, monks commonly grew and prescribed plants such as sage, anise, and mint in their monasteries. And as the market for herbal remedies and natural medicine grows, we continue to search the globe for plants and plant compounds to combat our various ailments.
In Phytomedicines, Herbal Drugs, and Poisons, Ben-Erik van Wyk offers a richly illustrated, scientific guide to medicinal and poisonous plants, including those used for their mind-altering effects. Van Wyk covers approximately 350 species—from Aloe vera and Ephedra sinica to Cannabis sativa and Coffea arabica—detailing their botanical, geographical, pharmacological, and toxicological data as well as the chemical structures of the active compounds in each. Readers learn, for example, that Acacia senegal, or gum acacia, is used primarily in Sudan and Ethiopia as a topical ointment to protect the skin and mucosa from bacterial and fungal infections, and that Aconitum napellus, more commonly known as aconite, is used in cough syrups but can be psychedelic when smoked or absorbed through the skin.
With 350 full-color photographs featuring the plants and some of their derivative products, Phytomedicines, Herbal Drugs, and Poisons will be an invaluable reference not only for those in the health care field but also for those growing their own medicinal herb gardens, as well as anyone who needs a quick answer to whether a plant is a panacea or a poison.