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The Forager's Harvest
A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
By Samuel Thayer
Reviewed by Thomas J. Elpel
There are very few people alive today who could call themselves professional wild foods foragers, but Samuel Thayer is one of them. Studying, harvesting, cooking, and eating wild edible plants isn't merely a part-time hobby, but something that he does all the time. In the process he has discovered that most of the edible plants books on the market contain erroneous information about what is edible and what isn't, written by authors who merely referenced other authors, without the benefit of personal experience. Thayer has been a real myth-buster, clarifying issues such as those regarding the edibility and preparation of common milkweed (which is now one of my favorite wild edibles, thanks to his research). Thayer includes wild foods in his diet almost daily, and in one experiment, he ate nothing but wild foods for several months.
Samuel Thayer's book, The Forager's Harvest, is the kind of edible plants book that is desperately needed today. Thayer goes into great detail on a small number of plants, with crystal-clear photography for identification, plus additional photos showing the edible parts and the processing of them. He writes from personal experience, giving useful tips on how to efficiently harvest, process, and prepare wild plants for the dinner table. You don't have to reinvent the wheel when you want to learn to enjoy wild foods, because Thayer has taken the time to find out and write down what works and what doesn't. His emphasis on plants that truly taste good will help you to have a positive experience with edible plants that will encourage you to come back for more.
The Forager's Harvest covers mostly plants of the northeastern states (Thayer lives in Wisconsin), but many of the species discussed in the book are widespread across North America. Plants included in the book are: ostrich fern, cattail, wapato, wild rice, wild leek, smilax, butternut, siberian elm, stinging nettle and wood nettle, sheep sorrel, goosefoot or lambís quarters, spring beauty, marsh marigold, swamp saxifrage, serviceberry (a.k.a. juneberry or saskatoon), chokecherry and pin cherry, ground bean or hog peanut, hopniss, black locust, sumac, wild grape, basswood, evening primrose, parsnip, common milkweed, virginia waterleaf, nannyberry, black haw, highbush cranberry, burdock, and thistle. even if half of these plants are not found in your area, this book is still worth picking up for the quality coverage of those plants that you do have. 360 pages. 2006.
Articles from The Forager's Harvest Newsletter:
(These articles from the newsletter were later revised and included in the book.)
The Milkweed Phenomenon
Hopniss: North America's best wild tuber?
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