Books for Nature Lovers
Food Plants of the World
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Review By: ARABA March 2006

For those who have ever wondered what a loquat looks like, or which plant rooibos tea comes from, this is the book to consult. This photographic guide contains information on over 350 of the most common food plants from around the world, including herbs and spices, cereals, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Each plant is covered in a standardized single-page entry of about 250 words, including description, origin and history, parts used, cultivation, nutritive value, and notes on medicinal and other nonfood uses. There are two or three photographs of each species, usually of the whole plant and a close-up of the edible parts. The plants are arranged by scientific name, with scientific synonyms and common names in several different languages also provided. The index includes both scientific and all common names listed in the entries, which is very helpful since users will usually know only common names. The book also includes introductory information on the different categories of food plants, such as legumes, fruits, or sugars, and lists the most important food plants in each category. An appendix explains the chemistry and physiology of plant-based nutrients, and there is a tabular quick guide to 900 commercial food plants including the 350 discussed in the book. The quick guide provides scientific and common name; region of origin; edible parts; and nutritive values for energy, protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins for each species.

The range of plants covered in the main text is impressive, including plants from all parts of the world. They range from will-known plants such as rice, maize, and cabbage to exotics such as stevia, durian, and jugo bean. Since each plant, no matter how widely used, has entries of the same length, the greatest value in the book lies in its provision of basic information on unfamiliar food plants. The guide will be useful in public libraries with an international clientele or as a ready-reference source at international grocery stores. It will also find use at academic libraries interested in cookery, agriculture, or ethnobotany.

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