“My love affair with nature is so deep that I am not satisfied with being a mere onlooker, or nature tourist. I crave a more real and meaningful relationship. The spicy teas and tasty delicacies I prepare from wild ingredients are the bread and wine in which I have communion and fellowship with nature, and with the Author of that nature.” ~Euell Gibbons
As I study plants, read more books, and hundreds of blog posts, I am finding there is much more to eat in my garden than just the typical fruits and vegetables. I started learning about edible flowers, and have been growing and trying more for a fun change in our salads. And I know that many of my wildflowers/native plants are edible, and I have been featuring these plants and their culinary/medicinal uses in many blog posts. Of course you can harvest nuts from common trees like black walnuts, chestnuts and oak trees, and we did try the black walnuts that grew at the old house.
But when I saw this book about foraging for food in your own backyard, I was intrigued and had to read it. I thought it would give me more information about my native plants, and how to harvest them. I was not prepared for what I would find in this book as it features so much more.
So I thought this would be a fun book to share for Holley’s Garden Book Review meme.
Author: Zachos, Ellen
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC (March 12, 2013)
Amazon Price: $11.32 (paperback)
In A Few Words
The author, Ellen Zachos, is a blogger, writer and forager extraordinaire as she leads foraging walks in NYC. The book starts with how to identify the different habitats from which you can forage while ensuring safety and being ethical in your harvesting. Then the author gives tips for how to carefully harvest using common tools without sacrificing the look of your garden.
The rest of the book gets into the details of plants to forage divided into groups: tasty leaves and stems, edible flowers and fruits, nuts and seeds, roots, tubers and rhizomes, safe fungi and plants with many edible parts. The last section goes into how to cook and preserve these foraged foods.
What I Liked
I love how the author has given me a new perspective on edible plants, and has blurred the line between edibles and ornamentals. The reason for foraging from the author’s perspective; it reduces your garden footprint and tastes good. She includes many reminders throughout the book, such as: be careful where you forage as you want to be sure there are no chemicals, domestic pets, not too close to the road, on someone else’s property and on and on.
And then there is the practical advice like picking in the rain or right after rain as it is the easiest time to pull ‘weeds’ that you can eat in effect “killing two birds with one stone”. Or forage for root and tubers in fall when it makes sense, and you are winter prepping your garden.
Of course the best part of the book is where you learn about the plants you can eat. An added bonus to the list of plants is many are either weeds or invasive plants that we are pulling out of our garden and throwing away so why not eat them if you can. For instance you can eat: Goutweed, Chameleon plant (ugh I cannot get rid of this plant but I can eat it), chickweed, garlic mustard, oxeye daisy, dandelion and the list goes on.
The author does get into traditional natives to eat such as monarda, ostrich fern, elderberry, serviceberry, spiderwort, crabapples and sumac. And she doesn’t stop there but adds to the list with ornamentals I would have never considered. Who would think hosta would be a great food, well except for the deer certainly not me, but it is. Add to that sedum, Rose of Sharon, dahlia and canna.
Each of the plant pages tells the details about the plant, how to harvest and how to eat the plant part(s). There is a key that shows what season to harvest the plant along with little tidbits of info about how to cook the plant or how it tastes.
I also liked the section about prep and preserving as it was a great introduction. And the resources were many as she gives you more books and webpages about foraging. I hope to check out some of these in the future as I start my foraging and have more questions.
Not So Much
I have little to criticize about the book as it was so comprehensive. The list of plants seems endless and she has included a wide variety. Though I am suspect of picking fungi as so many are poisonous, I would personally want Ellen or another expert to show me what I am looking for before I ate any out of my yard.
What was not to like about this book. I have so many of these weeds, natives and ornamentals that I can get started right away. And the author has tried every one of these so you know the advice you are getting is reliable. Even if you only forage a few items from your gardens and yards, you will learn so much and have fun doing it. I hope to come back and report how our foraging has gone this garden season so stayed tuned.
**All the photos here are plants in my garden that I can forage. Move your cursor over the picture to see the name of the plant.
Note-Euell Gibbons was a great American forager in the wild.
We live in a vastly complex society which has been able to provide us with a multitude of material things, and this is good, but people are beginning to suspect we have paid a high spiritual price for our plenty. ~Euell Gibbons
Next up on the blog: Next week will be time for another Wildflower Tales as we end July already.
I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.
As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’sFertilizer Friday.
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