Award-winning garden writer Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta. Father Kino, born in what is now Italy, arrived in the Pimeria Alta in March 1687 and worked for 24 years to make the lives of the natives living there better, while, of course, converting them to Christianity. Father Kino and the other Catholic missionaires introduced some Old World herbs and discovered some New World plants unknown in Europe.
Before modern drugstores, herbs were a family’s medicine chest. The native populations knew which ones worked as an insectide, antiseptic, laxative, cold medicine, sleep aid, and vitamin pill. They were aware that certain twigs were good to use as a toothbrush and others were good to dye fibers. Soule discusses more 40 of these plants, from Aloysia (Mexican oregano) to Yerba Mansa. She tells how to select, plant and nuture them. Once you’ve grown your herbs, Soule leads you through harvesting and preserving in a useful form.
Soule concludes the book with a few recipes including herb syrups, herbal toothpaste and bubblebath. You can purchase Father Kino’s Herbs at the Tucson Botantical Gardens or order it here.