By Luigi Ballerini
University of California Press, $34.95, 176 pages
I was very much looking forward to review Feast of Weeds as I am a serious outdoor forager. Alas, what a total disappointment. This book was translated from Italian and the listed thirty-one edible plants are native to a small area of southern Italy. How does that translate to American foraging? It doesn’t. In fact, the book is pages and pages of rambling on all subjects except outdoor foraging: Roman and Greek quotes, plenty of philosophy, religion, poetry, song lyrics, history, even a short conversation from the Wizard of Oz. Very few of the plants you will find in your neighborhood and many you probably never heard of, like cipollini, warty cabbage, myrtle; others are not native to our soil, like capers. The text is verbose, starting with a ten-page introduction and has little to do with collecting edible plants. The recipes are equally poor. Many are repeated under different plant section, substituting the main ingredient for the same recipe. Besides, how would you ever collect 3⅓ pounds milk thistle or 4½ pounds red poppy leaves or two ounces false acacia flowers? Illustrations are no better, small, flimsy sketches from which you will not recognize the actual plant.
Reviewed by George Erdosh