John Kallas is a fellow Portlander who leads edible plant walks through his web site, Wild Food Adventures. He’s a botanist with a PhD in nutrition who has been enthusiastically studying and teaching foraging for years. He just put out the first in what will be a series of wild food how-to books, aptly named Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods From Dirt To Plate. It covers 15 very common weeds found across North America, from mallow to sow thistle.
Here’s what’s good about the book:
* It is very user friendly, arranged like a textbook with bolded terms and sidebars featuring definitions, range maps and lists of common names.
* It has outstanding photographs of the plants throughout their life cycle, from early spring to full-on summer bloom. This is exceedingly useful for identification, because a plant in early growth may be at its most tasty yet often looks nothing like its full-grown version — which is usually all one finds in the other field guides.
* It has detailed information about the growth process for each plant, useful for learning when to eat different parts and why.
* The recipes look delicious and have clearly been enjoyed by the author.
* The book has extensive information on some prolific weeds that get little attention in the other edible guides, such as nipplewort (Lapsana communis) and cat’s ear (Hypochoeris radicata).
* Kallas is meticulous in his research, combing through academic studies and reporting only nutrient data he’s personally verified.
Here are the book’s weaknesses:
* Despite the high page count per plant, there’s not a whole lot in it for you if you’re an intermediate-to-advanced level forager and are already quite familiar with the common weeds in this book. If you’re looking for a broader range of plants and want to go more in depth, Sam Thayer’s Nature’s Garden or Forager’s Harvest would be a better fit.
* Kallas does not delve into medicinal properties.
Bottom line: Kallas has crafted an excellent beginner’s guide with a strong emphasis on identification and basic botany.
For more book recommendations, visit the Resources page.
I’m offering a fun and free workshop called Nonvisual Plant Identification on Saturday, Oct. 2. Click here for more info.