Sunday, May 20, 2012

Foragers Find - The Best Book of All!

Yesterday we were Down Below (Lander and Riverton, two towns 80 miles east of us and some 2,000 feet lower in elevation than where we live) and stopped at Meadowlark Bookstore. They deal in used books. I bought three books. Two on mushrooms and one called Western Edible Wild Plants by H.D. Harrington.

 Didn’t realize it at the time, but this has turned out to be one of the best books I’ve found so far!

Western Edible Wild Plants is divided into the following:

  • Underground parts (like radishes and carrots)
  • Leaves and shoots (like spinach and asparagus)
  • Fruits, seeds, and miscellaneous ( like apple, wheat, or tea)
  • Poisonous plants ( like poison ivy or death camas)
  • Index – scientific names
  • Index – common names
Each plant has:

  • Scientific and common name
  • Description
  • Use
  • Species
It features quite a few wild edibles, and the detailed information is outstanding. 

Most foraging books will simply describe the plants and say something like:

  • This is a good food plant. The roots can be roasted or boiled.
  • The leaves, if picked young, may be eaten in a salad.
  • Native Americans used this as a staple.
Not particularly helpful, in my opinion. 

But the Harrington goes way beyond that.  He gives detailed instructions on how to harvest the plants.  Additionally, he talks about how to prepare the item.  He describes exactly how Native Americans dug the roots and cleaned them.  I like how Harrington explains different methods of preparing them and how they turned out. Sometimes he didn’t care for the way an item tasted, so he prepared it a different way.  Clearly, he has actually done it and not simply read about it.

For example, he describes several methods of getting the seeds out of a cow lily seedpod. He explains how to roast the seeds, and how to winnow the husks off them. Important if you’ve never winnowed husks before!

Although this book has wonderful detailed drawings, it will not go into my collecting kit. It will probably live with my cookbooks.  Although, if I can get Himself to take me camping, it will definitely come along…

While Mike was driving us home, I was reading the instructions on how to prepare some of the wild edibles. He commented that some of the recipes call for butter and salt, etc.

“Yea, I guess when you are trudging around in the woods, you’re gonna carry all that stuff with you, right?” 

I responded sweetly, “Honey, what we’ll do is (and I paused for emphasis) when we get around to going out to the woods (pause) to enjoy this magnificent scenery (pause) and get some desperately needed exercise, (pause) we will harvest what we find and bring it home to prepare.”

“And besides,” I reminded him, “In a bug-out situation, we’ll have our bug-out bags with us. There will be salt and other seasonings we need to make it fit to eat. Right?”

No comment from Himself….

Can’t wait for the weather to warm up enough to go hunting for wild edibles!


  1. does anyone know of an south eastern book?

  2. One of my all around favorites (and one of the early books on the subject) Is Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons. Most of the plants he addresses can be found just about everywhere.

    Because of the higher population, there is signficangly more books on foraging in the southeast.

    here is a link with tons of info, including many people who teach classes...

    Hope this helps.