It is difficult to know what to write about this book. Quite simply, I love it. Love it love it LOVE IT!
But that is not enough. How to convey that to you? It is the book that got me seriously into foraging as a way of life. I was led here by Pam Corbin’s Preserves – which, incidentally, is still the best book I have read on how to make jams and all things related. Pam’s recipe for Beech Leaf Noyau, which I have shared here before, made me realise that there was more to the English countryside than just Horse Chestnut trees with candle stick blossom. More importantly, she made me wonder if there was more to the tow paths than I had at first thoughts. John’s book seemed a good way to find out.
Set out in The River Cottage Handbook format, it is a delight to both read and use. It is small and compact enough to take out as a field guide with close up colour photos of the plants in question. Far from a comprehensive or encyclopedic list, this book covers the ‘seventy or so … best wild food plants that the British Isles have to offer.’ Their inclusion is determined by those most likely to be found and most likely to be enjoyed. Fungi and Seaside plant are covered by his other books on those subjects. John’s writing style is entertaining and at times laugh out loud funny. My copy is stained from the drink I splurted over the page where he writes of the dangers of eating poisonous species:
‘Remember, accidentally killing yourself by eating a poisonous plant for your tea may be a painful tragedy for you and your nearest, but, worse still, it is so embarrassing.’
I think my favourite quote comes from the page discussing wild roses. Having seriously written of the Dog Rose and Field Rose, he goes exhort his reader to ‘look out for the Japanese Rose. The plant is an enthusiastic immigrant, common in gardens, but also in hedgerows, roadsides and on sand dunes … The flowers are a deep pink, of medium size and intensely perfumed. In addition it has, like my Auntie Hilda from Lowestoft, enormous hips.’
Another stained page. I must remember not to drink and read at the same time.
As well as descriptions of edible plants, poisonous plants, a Forager’s calendar, a section on conservation and the law, John also includes several recipes. I have made many of these and am looking forward to trying out many more. His Dandelion Marmalade is a particular favourite.
It is with great pleasure that I am going to be able to meet the man himself as he is leading the Mushroom course I will be doing this Autumn. Very excited about it I am too.