Book Review: The Medicinal Herb Grower Volume 1 by Richo Cech
This is the first of the collection of books I’ve gathered to help plan my medicinal herb garden that I read. By the title I had thought it would be one of the most key books in my new collection. And in many respects it is a good book, and while worth reading, not quite in the way I expected.
Richo Cech possesses great expertise at growing medicinal herbs born from years of experience in the field. This book is a delightful collection of his wisdom and is filled with illustrative stories grown from that experience. For that, it is very much worth reading, especially for anyone beginning their journey growing such plants, like myself.
But it is primarily a narrative organized by broad topics rather than encyclopedic or the sort of traditional reference you would expect to find with such books. There is no bibliography, index, endnotes or footnotes (well there is a footnote!) It has a wealth of information you just have to actually read the book to find it all. For example, if you want to know about growing a particular herb there will be quite a bit of useful information, it will just be scattered throughout many sections of the book. (The book is fairly short at 160 pages so it is hardly a chore to read through it all.)
All of which is antithetical to the way our internet age of hypertext, google searches and wikipedia works nowadays. But in a perverse way I like that. It harkens back, in a pleasant way, to a time where you read for knowledge and gained a broader understanding, rather than just look up facts stripped from context. And that I find wonderfully parallel to the path of the herbalist and healer, where we emphasize the context and wisdom, rather than isolated examinations and quick fixes.
I do think that that for me, one of the weaknesses of the book is that it probably more based on the concept of having “land” to grow on or yards big enough that they are practically like that. Not quite what I’m really likely to have in Boston. And the book is more generally about growing in an area like the pacific northwest (like the author) than folks dealing with the climes of New England. He does talk about such things but only in the broadest of strokes.
That said, will this be the book I refer to most in planning and research for growing medicinal herbs? Probably not. However it was a good place to start to begin my journey and somewhere I will return to from time to time to re-think things as I learn more and start the actual work growing.
I would tend to recommend it, but it may not be essential for everyone especially if you’re looking just for a reference book. But if you are starting out and want to think a bit more about things it is decent place to start.