The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide
Previously published as From Crabgrass Muffins to Pine Needle Tea
by Linda Runyon
Review by Thomas J. Elpel
There must be thousands of edible wild plants books on the market. At first glance, I thought that The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide was yet another text covering the same range of plants with the same kind of coverage as every other wild edible plants book. But something caught my eye and I read a little deeper, and then a little deeper still.
The difference with this edible plants book is 1) the author, Linda Runyon lived semi-primitively without plumbing or electricty for thirteen years and foraged for the majority of her food, and 2) as a vegetarian she was truly dependent on wild edible plants for survival and sustenance. One hour spent reading just part of Runyon's book completely changed my view of what's edible and how to truly live off of wild edible plants... and I've been studying wild edible plants for more than twenty years!
The way I learned it, there are relatively few wild plants that could truly sustain a person. Sure, the wild salad plants are good for you, but to survive you needed wild foods with lots of carbohydrates, oils and calories-- and those are often few and far between. But Linda Runyon managed to survive by turning salad plants into real food--such as drying and grinding wild clovers and grasses into flour. There is protein in these plants, just like beans and grains, and Runyon proved that you can really live off of them. It has given me a wealth of new ideas to explore.
The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide emphasizes sixty common plant species that are found nationwide. The book includes line drawings and grayscale photos for identification, plus recipes, nutritional information, tips for cultivation, and a section on poisonous look-a-likes. ISBN: 0936699-10-8. 2002, 2007. 308 pages. Cost $22.00.
Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants
by Christopher Nyerges
Review by Thomas J. Elpel
Although Christopher Nyerges' book Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants is intended for trail use, I find it fascinating just to sit and read. Nyerges has been leading Wild Food Outings since 1974, and his book is packed full of stories and advice based on personal experiences. For example, he is one of a growing number of people who eat poison oak/poison ivy to build and maintain an immunity to it. (Eating poison ivy is not something you should run out and try on a whim, since an adverse reaction could cause your throat to swell shut. Read this book first!) In his book Nyerges describes his own positive experience with eating poison oak, and he offers tips for those without immunity to treat their symptoms.
The Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants covers the key edible and poisonous plants of California and the desert southwest. The book includes black and white photos to aid in identification. Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants. ISBN: 1-55652-344-0. 1999. 238 pages.
The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America
Nature's Green Feast
by Francois Couplan
Recommended by Tamarack Song
This book is the only one that lists all edible species (about 4,000 plants) that have been used as food by humans on the vast North American continent. The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants contains a comprehensive account of each species, including etymology, geographical location, uses of each part, history of the uses, composition, medicinal uses, possible toxicity, endangered species, and much more.
Research for the book included first-hand "grazing" conducted over ten years on this continent by eminent European enthobotanist Francis Couplan, Ph.D. The book also includes traditional Native American cooking techniques and uses for plants which the author recorded while living with various tribes around the country.
The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants reflects a complimentary blend of the author's scientific expertise and thirty-five years of personal experience with edible plants. By relating to the senses and to the pleasure of discovering amazing new tastes and flavors, the book encourages the reader to develop new relationships with nature.
Francis Couplan, Ph.D. has been teaching about the uses of plants in the United States and Europe since 1975. He has written 17 books in French and German, including The Encyclopedia of the Edible Plants of Europe in three volumes. A regular contributor to European health and nature magazines, Couplan is popularizing the use of wild palnts in cooking by working with several top chiefs in France, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. He lives on a farm in Switzerland when's he's not traveling around the world in search of new plants and new experiences with them. Paperback, 583 pages.
Also be sure to check out Botany in a Day for a unique way to learn about plants and their uses.
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