What’s so edible?

The Quick Guide to Wild Edible Plants

wild wormwood, or not?
wild wormwood, or not?

Common sense rules when it comes to wild plants and knowing when it’s safe to toss them into your salad or leave them growing as they may. It seems as if the talk of wild edible plants has been sprouting up all over lately. I’ve discovered guided hikes on foraging and edible plants in the Hudson Valley, learned that katniss is indeed a plant, after rifling through my son’s copy of The Hunger Games, shared in a wild edible plant sighting on a golf course, and received a copy of The Quick Guide to Wild Edible Plants, a practical resource for non-botanists who need a starting point on picking and preparing wild edible plants.

Dealing primarily with plants in the Middle Atlantic and states of the Northeast, the book’s authors aim to help novice food foragers become familiar with wild edible plants before taste-testing anything that cannot be positively identified as non-toxic. Established botanists Lytton John Musselman and Harold J. Wiggins caution readers not only about the natural toxicity of some plants, but the risks associated with eating plants that may have been treated with hazardous chemicals or grown in tainted soil.

Musselman and Wiggins encourage exploration but extol the importance of common sense. The Quick Guide to Wild Edible Plants may serve the wilderness camper as well as the rest of us embarking on new adventures in learning about food foraging. As I learned earlier this year in our homegrown efforts to produce maple syrup, sourcing sweets of nature requires a substantial commitment of time and labor.

The authors emphasize the importance of properly identifying plants before ingestion, and note the evils including Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, Poison Hemlock and Water Hemlock. From the deadly harvest to leafy greens, grains and sweets topped by native berries, this guide may ignite an interest in exploring the wonders of local food gathering. Most of us have never been so lost that we’ve had to identify wild edible plants, but it the time comes, it wouldn’t hurt to be informed about nature’s storehouse.

The Quick Guide to Wild Edible Plants

Lytton John Musselman and Harold J. Wiggins

(The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013)




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