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Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees by Mike Shanahan. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing; 2016. Hardcover, 208 pages. ISBN: 9781603587143. $22.50.

Ecologist Mike Shanahan, PhD, examines the history, mythology, ethnobotany, and ecology of the genus Ficus (Moraceae), which includes multiple species referred to as “stranglers” because of their habit of growing on, and often killing, host trees. The fig tree exemplifies humanity’s relationship with nature, and the stories of the past may provide keys to the future: restoring rainforest, halting the loss of endangered species, and even limiting climate change. No aspect of the fig tree, from the wasps that pollinate it to the birds and mammals that feed on the fruit, is too small for Shanahan to explore in this text.

Diary of a Country Herbalist by Matthew Alfs. New Brighton, MN: Old Theology Book House; 2017. Softcover, 164 pages. ISBN: 9780961296476. $13.50.

This fictional story, set in the mid-1980s in a Midwestern homestead, is written as the diary of herbalist Sam Rogers, who details the nature around him and a life of simplicity with his schoolteacher wife. Author Matthew Alfs, RH (AHG), reveals his flair for education as he describes, through the character of Sam, native and naturalized wild medicinal plants of the Midwest, complete with Latin binomials, and the various methods that Sam uses to harvest and prepare herbs for medicinal use. The book includes a list of references, an index of the plants and health conditions referenced in the text, and blank pages for readers to make their own notes.

Cooking for the Senses: Vegan Neurogastronomy by Jennifer Peace Rhind and Gregor Law. Philadelphia, PA: Singing Dragon; 2018. Hardcover, 320 pages. ISBN: 9781848193000. $35.00.

An alternative way of looking at food, Cooking for the Senses introduces neurogastronomy and explains how understanding smell, taste, and other senses can change the experience of cooking into a more mindful, healthful activity. The authors explain the science of flavor, incorporating Jennifer Peace Rhind’s aromatherapy background to elevate the art of plant-based cuisine. This text includes 100 delicious vegan recipes that reflect neurogastronomy in action, as well as a section on selected plant compounds and their roles in the maintenance of optimal health.

The Genus Syzygium: Syzygium cumini and Other Underutilized Species by K.N. Nair, ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2017. Hardcover, 270 pages. ISBN: 9781482249729. $149.95.

The economically important genus Syzygium (Myrtaceae) is best known for clove (S. aromaticum) but also contains multiple cultivated yet underused species. According to editor K.N. Nair, PhD, these species could be prospects for the global pharmaceutical and horticultural trades. This volume, the 14th in the CRC Press series Traditional Herbal Medicines for Modern Times, focuses largely on Java plum (S. cumini). The book uses a multidisciplinary approach to review the plant’s  phytochemical constituents, its traditional medicinal and ethnobotanical uses, and its possible applications in soil and plant health, cancer immunology, and synthesis of gold and silver nanoparticles. Further chapters explore eight other species in the genus: plants that have applications as edible fruits, medicines, spices, food colorants, and flavorings.