This Week's Podcast — A Replay: As Fresh as a Bay Leaf in Summer — with Stephen Orr
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Stephen Orr is the executive editor at Condé Nast Traveler. But when he’s not up in airplanes or working in the tallest skyscraper in North America, 1 World Trade Center, he is down on the ground – gardening in the Catskills. And gardening with hundreds of herbs.
Stephen’s latest book is The New American Herbal featuring over 100 genera on 384 pages revealing the category of plant – annual, perennial, shrub or tree — and things like fragrance, culinary uses, ornamental qualities, even deer resistance and safety (will they heal you or kill you). Herbs have been used for centuries, and what’s new in this book is that it includes Asian and Central American plants — rare in books until now. And, it is absolutely beautiful. Stephen took all of the photographs.
I know a little bit about making this kind of book. It’s a labor of love, and I do mean labor. If he is anything like me, I am sure there is a ton of information that couldn’t make it into the book – and many more recipes. Not only are there descriptions of plants, there are cultural tips, garden projects and food to make that is as distinctive as many of the culinary additions. For example, there is a recipe for red hibiscus ice cream (click on picture below to enlarge), and one for homemade Absinthe!
I’m very interested in the section on “extraction.” I’m used to recipes for oils and vinegars, and tea – the ultimate “infusion”, but there are other ways to get the goods from useful plants like maceration; percolation; poultices; tinctures; expressions and capturing essential oils.
Although some modern perfumes make me ill, and air freshener should be better described by something I won’t write here, I love many natural scents such as vetiver, lemon verbena and lavender. On the other hand, Stephen shares my aversion to patchouli (left). He writes that one might describe it as “a bad date in college, a bad roommate in college, a bad trip in college.” Choke.
The book is filled with herbal lore and botanical esoterica, which is about my favorite thing to read. (Fresh bay leaves are nothing like their dusty dried counterpart; a few patients were lost on the way to discovering the right foxglove dose for dropsy.)
Tune in to hear some of the extraordinary stories. Learn more at Stephen’s Tumbler page.