Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hatfield’s Herbal – Gabrielle Hatfield

It’s the first really sticky day of the year here and I am sat on the sofa looking and feeling somewhat less than cool and dignified and adding the list of reasons I wish I lived in a remote part of Northern Scotland. Good access to shops is only attractive in the winter; a proper distance from car alarms however is never more desirable than when you have to have the windows open or melt.

Still if I can’t be in the country I can lay back with a fan in one hand and a book that takes me there in the other and that’s not bad either. ‘Hatfield’s Herbal’ is one of those books that makes me feel a little bit smug about being such a dyed in the wool book collector. If I didn’t hoard books in much the same manner that a squirrel hoards nuts for the winter then I wouldn’t have had the happy few hours I’ve spent with this particular volume this evening.

One of those books that arrive in my life courtesy of a 3 for 2 offer and to the untutored observer might appear to be destined to do nothing more than look pretty on the shelf, but eventually, one day, it’s time will come and so it is with ‘Hatfield’s Herbal’. Still on the trail of the wild garlic and wondering what to do with it when I’ve got it, a herbal seemed to be a good place to look for information (I don’t doubt that River Cottage holds the answers, but the cakes are far too distracting). It is a good place to look for information; it has masses of it, and all very interesting as well. I’m assuming this has been a reasonably successful book – it made it out of hardback and into paperback (do books do this automatically or do they have to prove themselves?) I hope it has been, and indeed continues to be.

I love this sort of thing; shortish essays on every wild plant I could imagine detailing their folk history, medical uses, and edible properties – in short the lot. It’s all so interesting – how could I not have known before that cow parsley was used to make a yellow dye for tweed? Or what Elecampane looks like, and now I’m off to find a flower book somewhere on the shelves so I can find out what Elecampane looks like. Books to be dipped into between books that demand a full reading are heaven anyway but books which combine passions (growing things, history, folk lore, and the possibility of concocting arcane but useful preparations) are a special kind of heaven.


  1. So glad you hoard books as that will make the most perfect gift for a dear friend of mine.

  2. What a lovely blog post Hayley - I can quite imagine you feeling cheered by reading about these wild plants in the way that I think I'd cool myself down by reading about the seaside.

  3. Joan Hunter Dunn - it's both a lovely book to look at and a lovely book to read. I think your friend will love it.

    Verity, I read about the sea as well in much the same way, but it makes me feel very homesick!

  4. Wonderful to read that there are others like me - book collectors and book hoarders! Long may we continue!