Wild Local Flavor

Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

We’re enjoying an exceptionally lovely springtime, especially for a drought year. Tender new shoots and colorful flowers are pushing themselves up through the ground on area hillsides, pathways, and even between cracks in the sidewalk cement. You might be surprised to discover how much of what you’re seeing is edible. There’s a lot of good eating to be had out there, but be mindful not to take too much and harvest sustainably.

California Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles
from Evergreen Huckleberries to Wild Ginger
by Judith Larner Lowry
Timber Press, 2014

In the latest entry in the excellent foraging guide series from Timber Press, Judith Larner Lowry, proprietor of Larner Seeds and wild foods expert and nature writer, has assembled a well-photographed, alphabetized guide to foraging along the coasts, mountains, deserts, and everywhere else in California. The guide includes tips for finding, identifying, sustainably gathering, and preparing wild foods. You may recognize many of the 120 plants profiled, like the angled onion, with its subtle garlic-onion flavor and edible white flowers, that spreads profusely in overgrown yards and along roadsides in the spring; or the lovely, dainty vetch that grows in local parks and other open spaces, looks a bit like a sweet pea, and can be used in salads or sprinkled on soups.

The Wild Food Cookbook
by Roger Phillips
The Countryman Press, 2014

With an emphasis on recipes and cooking, photographer and author Roger Phillips has compiled a wide-ranging guide to finding and preparing hundreds of wild North American foods, including a chapter on dangerous edible plants. Recipes for appetizing and attractive dishes range from syrups and teas to main courses, many of which have been gleaned from Phillips’ extensive research into old cookbooks, explorers’ diaries, traders’ accounts, and studies of the customs of various native peoples. Considered by many to be a classic on the subject, the volume describes berries, herbs, mushrooms, wild vegetables, salad leaves, seaweed, needles, and bark and how to prepare them in tasty and nutritional ways.

Preserving Wild Foods: A Modern Forager’s Recipes
for Curing, Canning, Smoking, and Pickling

by Matthew Weingarten and Raquel Pelzel
Storey Publishing, 2012

This captivating book is focused on preserving wild ingredients foraged from the sea, fields, forests, fresh water, and even urban landscapes. Inspired by his love of the natural world and walks through the woods, chef-author Weingarten shares more than 60 recipes for things like Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns, Pickled Garlic Scapes, Candied Angelica Stems, and Scented Geranium-Tomato Jam. The interest in lesser-known and lesser-used plants like Irish moss and stinging nettle, combined with evocative photographs, storytelling, history, lore, and descriptions of centuries-old preservation techniques make the book a delightful read.