Helen Yoest writes in the introduction to her new book, Plants with Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies in Your Garden that,
“I didn’t set out to write a botanical Kama Sutra.”
I wondered if the author’s inquisitive nature had been let loose with copious abandon.
Turns out, Yoest’s book was the brain child of her editor, who thought she was the perfect person to write about aphrodisiac plants. Plants With Benefits exhibits heavy influences from Yoest’s unconventional sense of curiosity about plants.
Through its descriptions of 45 plants, from almonds to wine, I found the narrative surprising without getting down in the mud. Even seasoned gardeners will find themselves on a journey of plant explorations byway of the author’s breezy writing.
Yoest takes you through each plant’s history: the lore, science, and culture. She tops off the ride with a tasty array of recipes made from many of the plants in the book.
Plants Share Benefits for Good Health
Gardeners are naturally drawn to plants and how to grow them but, what of the traditional and anecdotal evidence that plants give us good health?
In Plants with Benefits, Yoest cites a number of resources, from the ancient Doctrine of Signatures and physicians of the 1st century to modern psychiatrist, Alan R. Hirsch, M.D., F.A.C.P.
Plants With Benefits pushes the boundaries of average garden books by including the “Why It Works” section, which provides an explanation of each plant’s nutritional values and why people believe the food benefits them, along with snippets of science that does, or does not, support the lore.
The “Growing Tips” section and the cultural background of each plant remain, which is good for those of us who simply like to grow gardens. Less common fruit trees like avocado, banana, figs, papayas, and pomegranates spice up the pages and are enjoyable to read, even if you are not living in a compatible climate.
Common veggies from cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes intermingle with the odd and unexpected choices, like saffron.
Recipes from Drinks to Food Using a Garden Guide
The connection is strong between people who grow edible plants and those who prepare food in a kitchen; a cause and effect between growers and cooks.
Garden books that contain recipes are a bonus for many plant lovers; how could it not be in Plants With Benefits with the span of herbs in its collection of food plants.
Arugula salad, roasted garlic butter, and a couple of tomato recipes will ignite your taste buds.
The drink recipes were a pleasant surprise, as I wondered where the absinthe recipe would be among the plants. You will find recipes for hot tea and hot cocoa among the pages.
A recipe for a bloody Mary is there, because, according to Yoest, why else would you grow celery?
Celery seems to have caught a less-than ringing endorsement as the author comments, “the spoon tastes about the same as celery.”
Helen Yoest Freelance Garden Stylist and Writer
Helen Yoest is a freelance garden stylist and writer who described herself as having a strong sense of curiosity: She is curious about all things to do with plants and the gardens where they thrive.
Her ability to follow even the faintest garden threads has inspired stories appearing in Martha Stewart Living, Carolina Gardener and Country Gardens.
In 2012, Yoest authored the book titled Gardening with Confidence: 50 Ways to Add Style for Personal Creativity and continues writing in her blog, “Gardening with Confidence.”
The J.C. Raulston Arboretum clearly played a significant role in the author’s interest in plants, one with a tangible outcome in Plants with Benefits.
Yoest shares her connection to the well-thought-of North Carolina public garden in her Dedication, About the Author story and on the Acknowledgements page.
Yoest’s educational curiosity resulted in her acquiring a B.S. in Environmental Science and Engineering from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia; and a M.S. in Environmental Science and Engineering from Brunell University in London, England.
Back home in Raleigh, North Carolina, Helen’s Haven is a certified Wildlife Habitat, a Monarch Watch Station, and a native habitat certified by the state.
Gardeners Go Beyond the Growing in Plants With Benefits
St. Lynn’s Press published Helen Yoest’s Plants with Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies in Your Garden in 2014.
Yoest separated myths from facts in this well-organized book of 146 pages, dotted with colorful plant and food dish photos. Fellow garden writers like Carolyn Binder, Shawna Coronado, and Steven Asbell, among others, contributed recipes to Plants with Benefits.
Readers will find lists at the back of the book: The Language of Flowers includes two pages of “What the Flowers Say.” The Glossary covers three pages with terminology on organic compounds and herbal ingredients and vitamins.
Plants With Benefits ends with an Index that has more than a laundry list of plant names, although that is there, too. A shorter index of recipes rounds out the extra features.
Plants with Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies in Your Garden is a fun read, perfect for a long summer afternoon. And you might be inspired to grow yet another plant. Who knows how it will benefit you!