Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steve Brill

This is one of my favorite foraging books. It is not one I carry with me while foraging, but it's one I read in all the time. It's very well-written with lots of information about how to identify wild plants, where they grow, which season is the best for harvesting for food or medicine, and how to prepare them. The book comes with a whole section on how to cook them, including some excellent recipes.

I got my copy I think from Amazon--I can no longer remember, but Amazon is likely. You can also buy it directly from Wildman's webpage, where you will find even more information and pictures of the plants.

Brill writes will humor, intelligence, and loads of practical experience. He'll tell you of the time he wanted to find wild onions and couldn't find any. So he asked a friend who told him of a big patch in a park five miles away. So off Wildman goes to find the wild onions and finds them at the park. On the way back home, he sees them everywhere, and was surprised to find them growing in his apartment building's entrance. In other words, he lets you know he was a beginning forager too and is willing to allow us into his learning experiences. This is one of the things that makes the book so valuable to beginning foragers as well as to those with a bit more experience. We all have to start somewhere. In my opinion, this book is a great place to start.

There are no photographs, but the illustrations by Evelyn Dean are excellent. It is a good idea to study a plant before you go looking for it. Using this book and its descriptions and illustrations, and then check another one or two wild food guides, the kinds with photos, and checking for pictures of the plant on the web, you can get a pretty good idea of where you'll find a plant, whether in the woods or fields or roadsides, how to be sure it has all the identification details, and how and when to harvest it.

I read in this book all winter, reading about plants I already know and ones I want to know. I find I learn something every time I pick up the book, so I make sure I do it often. Right now, we're on the very edge of foraging season for early spring. There's some dock starting to show, wild onions and garlic are ready for harvest, wintercress will be showing up soon and so will dandelions, plantains, and poke. I can't wait! Reading in Brill's wonderful guide keeps me patient. There's so much yet for me to learn, but this year, I feel more ready and able, thanks to Brill's book.

If you're interested in foraging, I highly recommend getting a copy of this book. You sure won't be wasting your money. If you want to look before you buy, Wildman has enough excerpts from the book to convince even the most skeptical. You can find them here. So don't take my word for it. Go and read, then buy. You'll be glad you did.



Chiot's Run said...

I'll have to put this on my very long "to read" list. Perhaps by next winter I'll get around to reading it.

Deb said...

I have this book out from the library right now. He does pack a lot of information in there, in a manner that is not dry to read at all. There are a few things that bother me, like his need to expound on every side topic from nutrition to ticks, but overall it's a good resource.

Patricia said...

Hey Chiot--I understand about long "must read" lists. Consider moving this one up a notch or two. Looking at world news makes me want to forage even more!

Deb: There are irritating bits about every book, but as an overall resource, Brill's book is hard to beat. Thanks,