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Northern Plant Lore: A Field Guide to the Ancestral Use of Plants in Northern Europe Paperback – May 11, 2012
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About the Author
Eoghan Odinsson is an award winning author with a lifelong passion for the knowledge of our Northern forefathers - or "folk lore", Literally, the knowledge of our people. Graduating from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland with his Masters of Science degree, he subsequently taught for the University, as well as acting as Dissertation adviser for graduate students. In addition to his academic background, Eoghan also holds a Black Belt in Chito-Ryu Karate, and has taught Martial Arts in Canada and the USA. Eoghan has just returned from a 10 year stretch working in the Washington D.C. area, and is now back in his native Ottawa Valley where he lives with his wife, son and three dogs. Eoghan is a professional member of the Canadian Authors Association.
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Top customer reviews
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This book is wonderful in so many ways. There is a wealth of information laid out into a easy to find and deadly accessible manner. With this great information goes some amazing and beautiful pictures. The pictures really bring this book to life. When I take walks around hear in California, we live in a farm area settled by northern Europeans I take this book along with me in the kindle version. I am always finding plants from the book. It is a great teaching experience with my four year old. We try to find new plants every time and this book is our tour guide. Then we get to 'investigate' the plant. I learn along with my son.
I am so glad that I purchased this book (over and over again). I recommend everyone get a copy. This book is useful in so many different ways. The only improvement I can suggest is a lock and chain so I can keep a copy in my lobby. Thank you for such a great gem.
What he presents us with is a very detailed book, including color photos of all plants/flowers/herbs referenced, providing suggested medicinal uses and applications. He also includes very thorough descriptions of each herb, such as where each plant is commonly found, how to cultivate and grow each plant, and how, or if, the plant can be added to your diet. I was also quite impressed to see that the author also discusses some historical medicinal uses, which he clearly labels as "For Entertainment ONLY" as such things should be marked.
Frankly I am thrilled to add this book to my personal library and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in plant folklore or medicinal uses. The only possible qualm I have about it is that this book is not available in a printed version. But I am more then happy to settle for an e-book version for now.
*This review is based on a free copy of the book that was received either from the book publisher or the book author. No money was paid for this review.
The book features tables of plants by physiological categories (such as dermatological and respiratory) and by specific complaints (eg, itching and coughing) to make it easier to identify plants that may be helpful for particular conditions. The bulk of the text consists of profiles of 55 useful Northern plants from agrimony to yarrow. Each individual plant monograph is illustrated with an attractive color drawing or photograph. The illustration is followed by an average of 6-7 pages of descriptive text including various names by which the plant is known (Latin name, Old English names, and any alternate common names), the medical and other uses of the plant, a description, basic cultivation information, and historical notes and folklore. There is an emphasis on traditional medicinal uses, but the book also covers other traditional uses such as food, drink, dyes and pigments, crafts, tanning, insect repellant, lumber and woodworking, fertilizer/compost aid, fiber for making cloth or paper, and aromatic ingredients for incense or perfume. The basic cultivation information in the monographs provides enough details to evaluate whether the plant is likely to grow in your area and to determine where to plant it within your landscape. The book also provides cautions regarding cultivation of potentially invasive species such as buckthorn (alder), dandelion, and stinging nettle as well as additional warnings for plants with parts that may be toxic or irritating to the skin. Both common and obscure plants (from the perspective of North America) are featured. Many of the plants are readily available for cultivation as seeds, cuttings, or live plants. You can learn the background behind common plants such as garlic, rose, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme and also be introduced to less well known plants such as tormentil and red soapwort. Many of the plant monographs include food or beverage recipes or specific instructions for medicinal usage, so you can get started right away in practicing traditional plant lore.
The major shortcoming of the book is that it is sometimes difficult in the plant profiles to determine what details are coming directly from the historical work by Grieve and what information is a modern interpretation. The extensive reliance on Grieve's work also resulted in the occasional use of archaic language in the text, such as the use of the term "negro" to describe the 18th century herbalist and healer Doctor Caesar in a passage that probably comes from Grieve but was not identified as a direct quote. Also, although all of the plants were chosen based on their inclusion in medical texts known in England prior to the Norman Conquest, the historical profiles do not always clearly identify the specific uses in Anglo Saxon England but may instead reference traditional practices from many cultures and times. Interested readers can get around this concern easily enough by searching the original Anglo Saxon medical documents such as Bald's Leechbook and the Lacnunga; a translation from the 1800s is available for free online. There are a few inconsistencies in the monographs, as when the origin of the word "cowslip" is first described as coming from the Old English terms for "cow dung" and then a few pages later as being derived from the Old English words for "cow's plant." Perhaps there is genuine controversy among linguists, but it would have been helpful to present the two alternatives in one place. The book could have used some additional copy editing to correct the occasional minor grammatical or typographical errors and to improve the citation references for the public domain illustrations.
The book is an excellent reference from which to select plants for an Anglo Saxon heritage garden or other historical garden. Most of the profiled plants are adaptable to a wide range of environments, not just "Northern" climes, so readers in many places will be able to start their own heritage gardens. I have successfully grown many of the profiled plants in the southern United States. Many readers will use "Northern Plant Lore" primarily as a reference source to browse, but with its colorful illustrations and engaging writing style, it is also enjoyable to read cover-to-cover as I did. I highly recommend "Northern Plant Lore" to anyone interested in herbal lore, whether modern or historical.