Book Review

Ethnic Culinary Herbs: A Guide to Identification and Cultivation in Hawaii

by George W. Staples and Michael S. Kristiansen

University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1999. 96822-1888. $29.99 in hard cover. 122 pages. ISBN 0-8248-2094-0
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Reviewed by Kathy Vieth (3/2000)

Here is a book that answers questions such as what a turmeric plant looks like when it is growing, or furnishes distinctive but somewhat obscure morsels of information like this one: all parts of the cilantro plant are useful. The book provides lots of valuable information about 34 exotic herbs that happen to grow well in Hawaii. Many of the herbs discussed will also grow in southern Florida, Texas and California. If you cannot grow them, at least you will become acquainted with some new herbs that may be available from ethnic markets in your area.

The authors encourage organic growing methods but acknowledge that many growers do use inorganic fertilizers and pesticides. In the first chapter they describe soils and fertilizers and the following chapter deals with pests, diseases and their treatments.

A section entitled "Exotic Herbs from A to Z" provides the scientific and common names of each herb in English, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Thai, and Vietnamese. This is followed by a full description of the herb, its distribution, uses, plant culture, pests and propagation methods. A full-page line drawing shows the plant, flower, fruit, seed and roots in excellent detail. There are eight pages of full-color photographs.

An excellent bibliography is provided, along with two appendices, "Herbs Grouped by Botanical Families" and "Honolulu Community Gardens Program," and an index that includes both common and scientific names. This is an easy-to-use and easy-to-read book. The user tips are helpful. I enjoyed it.


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