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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

The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants.

      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
Highbush Cranberry
Hopniss: North America's best wild tuber?


Nature's Garden
A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
By Samuel Thayer
Reviewed by Thomas J. Elpel

Nature's Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants.

      Nature's Garden continues the excellent work Sam Thayer started with Forager's Harvest. Thayer dives into the details of identifying, harvesting, processing, and preparing each of the edible plants covered in the book. His coverage of acorns spans fifty-one pages, in which he details the identification of numerous species, compares red and white oaks, busts myths about leaching the tannins, and provides step-by-step instructions to harvest, sort, shell, leach, cook, and serve delicious acorn dishes.

      The book is captivating in a way that makes me want to travel to the midwest to discover the bounty of edibles not found in my home turf of the Rockies. But Thayer's coverage of species more familiar to me, such as cow parsnip and salsify, prickly pear, and sow-thistle, revealed new possibilities with plants i thought i already knew well. Discovering new ways to eat previosly known plants is as good as learning entirely new species!

      Nature's Garden primarily applies to plants of the midwest and northeast, but many of the species discussed in the book are widespread across North America. Plants included in the book are: trout lily, solomon's seal, false solomon's seal, american lotus, mayapple, hackberry, walnut, acorn, hazelnut, prickly pear, amaranth, passion flower, toothwort, garlic mustard, blueberry/huckleberry, cranberry, black huckleberry, new jersey tea, wild strawberry, black cherry, sand cherry, wild plum, aronia, autumnberry, bunchberry, wood sorrel, honewort, wild carrot, cow parsnip, black nightshade, bugleweed, elderberry, jerusalem-artichoke, ox-eye daisy, dandelions, wild lettuce, sow-thistle, prenanthes, chicory, and salsify. 512 pages. 2010.

Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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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Books
authored by
Thomas J. Elpel
Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, andthe Blossoming of Human Spirit
Roadmap
to Reality
Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
Living
Homes
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
Participating
in Nature
Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
Mountain West
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Botany
in a Day
Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids
Shanleya's
Quest

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