The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Friday, January 30, 2004

Book Review
Texas Mountains & Herbs for Texas
Ro Wauer, January 2004, The Victoria Advocate, © 2004

Two truly outstanding books appeared last year that received little attention at the time. But both of these marvelous books - Texas Mountains and Herbs for Texas - deserve considerable praise. Texas Mountains contains 120 color photographs of mountain scenery and subjects by one of the country's really superb photographers, Laurence Parent. His photography, accompanied with a text by Joe Nick Patoski, offers breathtaking views of Texas mountains, including the well-known Guadalupe, Davis and Chisos Mountains, as well as lesser-known ranges such as the Sierra Diablo, Eagle, Chinati, Beach, and Christmas Mountains.

We have all seen Parent's photographs in almost every issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife, Texas Highways, and Texas Monthly, as well as numerous national magazines, but Texas Mountains provides a marvelous showcase for his talent. I am especially impressed with the many shots of the Big Bend Country. Having spent a good part of my life in this wild West Texas setting, I can truly appreciate the beauty of Parent's photography. Each individual picture offers insight into the place and into Parent's obvious patience to capture just the right mood. For anyone who loves West Texas, this book is a must buy. It is almost as good being there at all the right times.

Herbs for Texas is a very different kind of book. Written by well-known botanist Howard Garrett, with veteran herbalist Odena Brannam, instead of containing great scenery, this book contains almost anything anyone would want to know about 150 Texas herbs. Each entry includes a photograph and a narrative that offers ideas for using each herb in gardening and cooking (with occasional recipes) as well as its medicinal uses and instructions for making teas. In addition, Garrett sets forth the basics of organic gardening, including pest control, and discusses how to design an herb garden. He also discusses how to raise roses, pecans, and fruit trees without chemicals.

This herb book contains an amazing amount of information that is not available in any other single source. It is a great book for homeowners, gardeners, landscapers, chefs, herbalists, and health care providers. I found it to be a marvelous reference for any Texas herb. Alfalfa, allspice, aloe vera, basil, blackberry, chives, clover, coriander, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, horehound, lavender, lemongrass, licorice, Mexican oregano, mint, mustard, parsley, peppergrass, rose, sage, St. John's wort, thyme, and yarrow are only a few of the herbs discussed in this book.

Both these books are products of the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7819. Texas Mountains contains 156 pages and sells for $39.95, hardcover (ISBN 0-292-76592-4); it is a wonderful coffee table book. Herbs for Texas contains 258 and sells for $29.95, paperback (ISBN 0-292-72830-1), or $60.00, hardcover (ISBN 0-292-78173-3); it is an excellent reference book.

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