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Books: Breverton’s Complete Herbal: A Book of Remarkable Plants and their Uses

Book: Breverton’s Complete Herbal
Author/Complier Terry Breverton
Quercus, 2011

This is NOT a compendium of herbal medicine as we know it in the 21st century. The plants, remedies and descriptions should not be made, ingested or used internally/externally/on your Aunt Mable’s buttocks or even That Poodle Who Never Stops Barking Next Door.

Terry Breverton has taken the texts of traditional seventeenth century Herbals–most notably Culpepper’s English Physitian and Compleat Herball of 1653, and set them into a more modern format. No ‘s’ that looks like ‘f’, less engravings of men dressed like they should be at an exclusive club for drag queens in New York City, modern spelling and latin classifications.

As someone interested in Herbal Medicine, I would not touch this book with a ten foot pole. It should always be remembered that in Culpepper’s era, remedies were still chosen because the plant leaf was shaped like one of Christs’ five wounds or because it looked like the tree Judas hanged himself from and these are not valid medical distinctions.

As a lover of folklore, herbal charms and history, I have enjoyed this book immensely–I am still working my way through the legions of entries. We really don’t have any way of dating the folklore in the herbal treatments of the 1600’s. It is safe to assume that much of it is from a far earlier time but not a good idea to hail the herbs used in this book as the wisdom of the middle ages/the secrets of matriarchal midwives/older than toenail clippings of the Venerable Bede. Any reader of Marvell, Johnson or Milton can imagine the scents and plants that surrounded these poets and for the history/culture geek, that makes this book a treasure.


Roasted Peaches

Sea Salt
Dry Ginger
Dry Thyme, Savory, or Lavender (organic/safe for consumption)
Butter or whatever you’re allowed to use.

Best fresh from Farmer’s Market in the Fall–especially from New England! (OK…biased).
Preheat Oven at 350F
Slice peaches, remove stone. Set flesh side up in pan alone or with Comfort Food Chicken.
Into depression from stone, put a small pinch of dry ginger (two pin heads), small pinch sea salt (one pin head), pinky nail piece of butter
Add other dry herbs based on your preference.
LIGHTLY dust dry thyme SPARINGLY across top
Roast for minimum 25 minutes–but will taste delicious in the pan with chicken for an hour.
One peach per person.
**I have found honey or sugar utterly unnecessary. They should taste like hot fruit pie.

Golden Orb Stew: beef short ribs, golden/orange tomatoes

Three to four beef short ribs–free range/farmer’s market have the best flavor
4 cups beef broth or home-made beef stock
One cup red wine
4-6 Deep orange plum (oval, torpedo shaped, dense, less juice) tomatoes, thinly sliced
Organic Lavender–in order to cook safely–1-2 tablespoons
Paprika, Spanish or Hungarian 1 tablespoon
Powdered Sage 2 tablespoons
All purpose unbleached flour 3-4 tablespoons
5-6 garlic cloves
One onion, thin sliced
At least 2 large, golden/Orange tomatoes, non plum variety (Okay, fine, I’m not sure what they’re called! Regular shape, etc)

Blend flour, sage and paprika, and roll ribs until all sides lightly dusted.

Brown ribs in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in large pot until thoroughly dark–even a little seared black on the top, fatty side. This causes huge amounts of smoke in my kitchen.

Remove ribs from pot.

Brown onion, garlic and diced plum tomatoes in the pan juices until onions and garlic are soft or darkened

Add ribs, beef broth, the lavender and red wine, bring to a boil and then set to lowest heat, very gentle simmer.

Simmer for 1 hour. cut large golden tomatoes in half, add to stew.–(small cherry tomatoes are good too, especially fresh from farmer’s market, add THOSE after 1 hour twenty minutes.)

Simmer one half hour further.

Serve with crusty bread. OR add quartered potatoes–purple or Yukon gold best after 1 hour simmering

* at least one rib and potato per person.
**make sure the lavender is safe for consumption. Fresh or dry thyme might also compliment this dish, or perhaps good quality rosemary

Comfort Food Chicken

2-6 chicken thighs, with skin–any amount or piece of chicken is fine–feel free to mix and match! Leave skin.
lemon juice
Powered Rosemary–this will NOT work with the dry leaf, so use Powdered Thyme if you can’t find rosemary.
Dry thyme
Optional: Dry Lavender, Organic or safe for consumption, Dry Savory, summer or winter variety
Tablespoon of whatever butter or substitute your doctor/wife/husband/mother superior/handler lets you use

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Arange chicken in medium-deep pan, skin up. Feel free to pick or trim excess fat.
Pour or squeeze lemon juice over chicken until bottom of the pan thinly covered.
Dust Secondary herbs of choice–anything NOT powdered Rosemary/Thme over meat.
Lightly cover meat with powdered Rosemary/Thyme–yes, it should look GREEN when you’re DONE with this step.
place pinky-nail size bit of butter, or butter whatever on each piece.
Cook for 35 minutes, baste thoroughly–if any charing on side of pan, mix with juices to turn the meat a lovely brown.
Cook 25 minutes more.
**if cooking split breasts only, they cook for 50 minutes, rather than 1 hour. If mixing pieces, put breasts in ten minutes into cooking.
**Goes wonderfully with ROASTED PEACHES and can be cooked in the same pan!

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