How to safely identify, gather, and prepare delicious dishes from readily available plants
By Lytton John Musselman & Harold J. Wiggins
Johns Hopkins University Press, $24.95, 133 pages
Remember the dire warning about eating wild mushrooms? And you thought it was an old wives tale? Think again. Wild mushrooms top the no-no list in The Quick Guide to Wild Edible Plants. “Never, ever even try to eat a mushroom that you haven’t properly identified,” say authors Lytton John Musselman and Harold J. Wiggins. As longtime botanists, they advise enthusiasts foraging for edibles in field and forest to wash their harvest for fear of herbicides and pesticides, and be aware of all natural toxins. Over a hundred full color images preclude the risk of choosing dangerous look-alike species.
After the basic information comes the recipes. Musselman and Wiggins emphasize ‘palatable’ rather than ‘delicious’ in the dishes (many adapted from Native American originals) concocted from the leaves, roots, rhizomes, seeds or fruit found in the Mid Atlantic and Northeastern states. Even the invasive kudzu finds new space as a fritter accompanying nettle omelet, and red spruce twigs steeped in vodka make a mean aperitif.
The book is witty and full of commonsense. It is a jolly good read for anyone, not only back-to-nature wannabes.
Reviewed by Jane Manaster