Have you ever thought about what would happen if you went to the store and there was no food on the shelves, or even worse, you were stranded somewhere away from civilization with nothing to eat? Or maybe you're just curious about those green things that keep popping up in your yard and garden, or growing between the cracks in the sidewalk. If you're one who likes to spend time outdoors, you might be looking for a way to deepen your connection with nature, lighten your load as a backpacker, or reduce your grocery costs by supplementing your diet with wild foods. Maybe you're just interested in plants and want to learn more about how our ancestors used them.
There was a time when every country boy or girl knew where the best blackberry patches were in the summer, or where to go in the fall to gather nuts. Mothers would send their children out in the spring to gather wild greens. Many kids today have never even tasted a wild berry or know what a walnut or hickory nut looks like. Greens are plentiful at the grocery store. Fears of being poisoned are heavily imprinted on young minds. Children are cautioned to never eat anything growing wild.
Many of the plants growing around you have the potential of being transformed into tasty salads, soups, entrées, desserts, and beverages. These are plants that our ancestors knew and used on a daily basis. Some of these are native plants that were growing here when the settlers first arrived. Others are descendants of plants brought over by the settlers, planted in their gardens for food and medicine, and that later escaped their boundaries.
As food became increasingly available on grocery shelves, less interest was given to the wild plants, and for the most part, they became forgotten as a food source. Many became known as nothing more than weeds, in some cases invasive aliens, to be eliminated at all costs. Others were recognized as native plants that needed to be protected. The thought of actually eating wild plants doesn't even occur to most people. Less time is spent outdoors, and as a result, many have become disconnected from the natural world, resulting in what Richard Louv describes as “nature-deficit disorder” in his book, The Last Child in the Woods.
Foraging is a means of reconnecting with nature. It gets people outdoors and gives them a whole new perspective on looking at plants. Tasting the plants is a way of using all your senses to explore the natural world. In the event of natural disasters, gathering and eating wild foods would be an alternative to standing in long lines waiting for relief aid. If you find yourself lost in the woods with no food, knowing what to eat or not to eat could be a matter of survival. There are also nutritional benefits. Wild plants are concentrated with vitamins and minerals and have not been subjected to genetic modification. Best of all, they are free for the picking and just good eating, with their own unique flavors.
This book is for anyone who is interested in wild plants and how they can be used for food. It will guide you from your backyard and gardens to the meadows, forests, wetlands, beaches, mountains, and deserts with information on how to identify the plants that you are likely to encounter, harvesting techniques, and recipes for using them. Identifying poisonous look-alikes will help to remove the fears associated with eating wild plants. Using caution and good conservation ethics, this book can help you learn everything you need to know to become a confident forager so you too can enjoy the bounty of nature.