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The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits and Nuts

The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants,
Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts

How to Find, Identify, and Cook Them

by Katie Letcher Lyle 
The Lyons Press, 2004

Author and cook Katie Letcher Lyle of Virginia penned this guide to the most commonly found wild foods in North America, from asparagus and puffballs to coconuts and horseradish.

Unlike Euell Gibbons, whose Stalking the Wild Asparagus and other books on wild foods described just about every edible thing growing without cultivation, Lyle guides her readers to just those plants that she considers to have "really fine taste." Separate sections detail the "tastiest" wild greens, mushrooms, fruits, herbs, nuts and other comestibles like Indian corn, sassafras, maple syrup, avacados, prickly pear, ginseng and Jerusalem artichokes.

Basic recipes are included in the back of the book for broths, dressings, sauces, pizza, quiche, pie crusts and a souffle using foraged ingredients. 

Locating some wild beechnuts or watercress for tomorrow's dinner may be problematic with this guide alone, however. Although each edible entry in the book includes information on the plant's favorite habitat and season, the directions are too generalized to be of much use. Hours of search and study are required to become proficient at foraging, but its a healthy pursuit that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

"Although foraging may be more easily within the reach of a small-town or rural population than it is for city folk, most cities contain parks and vacant lots," Lyle points out. "Even if we don't own wild land, we still have access to woods in the form of national forests and national parks. I've personally seen unpicked ripe blackberries in New York City's Central Park, lambs'-quarters growing profusely in a vacant lot in Queens, and mulberries staining the sidewalks of a downtown Baltimore neighborhood where I lived."

Wherever your foraging takes you, this is a handy text to include in a daypack. Its color photos and descriptions may help identify some pecans or catnip or cinnamon fern fiddleheads and the recipes for rose hip jelly, nut pie or blackberry jelly will inspire further outings.


The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants
The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts
Order a copy

Apple Chutney
An elegant condiment for curries or roast meats. Gather about 3 lbs. tart cooking apples, cut into small chunks, in an enamel cooking pot. Add the following: 1 huge onion, cut into small chunks; 2 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine; 1 cup raisins; 1 tsp. salt; 2 tsp. ground cinnamon; 1 tsp. ground ginger; 1 tsp. ground cloves; 1 tsp. dry mustard; 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup white; and 1 cup cider vinegar. Cook this mixture slowly for about 1 hour, or until it is thick, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. 

Watercress Bisque
This is popular in upscale restaurants both here and in continental Europe. The less you cook the watercress, the better the soup will be. Chop a big bunch of washed watercress coarsely, and set aside. Saute 1 small chopped onion in 2 Tbsp. butter until soft. Stir in 2 Tbsp. flour to make a roux. Stir for 2 minutes over medium heat, but do not let the roux brown. Slowly add about1 quart chicken or beef broth. Reserve 1 cup of the watercress for garnish. Add the rest of the watercress and cook 1 minute. Add one of the following to the soup: a 3-oz. block of cream cheese, warmed to room temperature or 1 cup cream; or 1 cup sour cream. When the mixture just begins to boil, take it off the heat, stir in the reserved, uncooked cress, and serve the soup at once.
The Forager's Harvest
The Forager's Harvest

A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
Harvesting Nature's Bounty
Harvesting Nature's Bounty

A Guidebook of Wild Edible, Medicinal and Utilitarian Plants, Survival, and Nature Lore

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