Book Review: The Heritage Herbal
by Sonya Patel Ellis
Published by The British Library, 2020
Sonya Patel Ellis is a nature writer, editor and artist exploring connections between plants, people and the botanical world, including a look into the history of herbs, botany, gardening, birds and botanical art.
A Heritage Herbal celebrates a much earlier book: A Curious Herbal. This was first published in 1737 with a series of very beautiful prints drawn, engraved and coloured by Elizabeth Blackwell.
Patel Ellis has chosen 35 heritage herbs and flowers with up-to-date information about their identification, growing, gathering and storing as well as essential qualities and medicinal properties. All 35 are accompanied by Blackwell’s lovely 18th century illustrations. Patel Ellis also includes remedies and recipes for each herb. There’s a great herbarium section helping the reader to design their own recipes and remedies.
A beautiful, informative, inspiring book.
Available from the British Library here
This is a great way to celebrate the fruits of summer. It’s quick - about 30 minutes to make - and then just a little while to chill before it’s ready. This recipe serves 8 (unless you’re very hungry!).
Wash the fruit and dry on kitchen paper. Keep the strawberries separate. Put the sugar and 3 tbsp water into a large pan. Gently heat until sugar dissolves and boil for a minute then add the fruit but not the strawberries). Cook and stir for 3 minutes over a low heat, adding chopped herbs, if you’re using them. Place a sieve over a bowl and tip in the fruit and juice.
Line a 1.25 litre pudding basin with cling film. Use more than one piece if necessary. Leave the edges overhanging by about 15cm. Remove the crusts from the bread. Cut 4 of the slices at an angle to give two angled pieces of bread per slice. Dip each slice in the fruit juice and line the cling filmed bowl. Then use the remaining bread, cut to shape to fit any gaps. Keep one piece of bread whole.
Spoon in the fruit, mixing in the strawberries as you go. Dip the last piece of bread in the juice and use it to cap the pudding. Pour over any remaining juice.
Bring cling film up and seal the pudding. Put a small plate on top and weight down with something heavy - I use tins of beans. Chill for 6 hrs or overnight. To serve, open out cling film then put a serving plate upside-down on top and flip over. serve with leftover juice, plus any extra berries and cream and enjoy one of the finest puddings known to fruit fans.
Josie Beszant and/or Ian Scott Massie, both artists from Masham North Yorkshire, Uk.