218 of 221 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2010
1. This beautiful, glossy book has the sharpest edible wild plant photos available. If you didn't recognize these plants before, you will now.
2. The detailed plant guides describing "common weeds" are, without being a bit boring, fun to read and thorough.
3. The wild plant recipes have been tested and refined. Speaking from experience, the recipe results yield some very yummy surprises for kids and adults. Who knew purslane, mallow, and wood sorrel could taste so good?
4. Whether you're a wild food gourmand or just an occasional weed-nibbler like me, Kallas' writing style is both entertaining and enlightening.
5. This book could change the way the world eats (at least the way we eat in the USA) and that's why I bought multiple copies for our public library, school teachers, and fellow nature-lovers.
123 of 124 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2010
My Dad recently gifted me this great book and it is one of the best that I have ever received! You can help the author even more by going to his site directly to see and purchase this book there: [...]. It is the first book in a series that this foraging expert plans to write. This first book focuses on the most readily available greens. I think it is perfect for both the city and country dweller as you will quickly learn to see the wild foods readily available all around you.
The author focuses on the best parts of the plants to use, and even recipes. I think he took the time to do so as most people are put off on harvesting "weeds," let alone when they actually try one (think dandelion leaves), they think, "Yuck, this stuff tastes awful." This is not a pocket field guide for the quick identification of a plant, but rather more of an in-depth look at the plant, look alikes, and the best ways to utilize said plant. That being said, it is not tedious to find the plant or information you are looking for and I have already been able to quickly flip back and forth through it and find exactly what I am after in an instant.
The chapter on the Mallow plant alone should be enough to get most people out in their yards hunting and pecking for a wonderful Nature provided treat. Recipes for this plant include: various "mumbo" gumbo recipes, Mallow confections using Mallow whites for items like whipped cream, meringues, and "Mallowmallows." Yes, the Mallow plant is a cousin to the Marsh Mallow plant!
The cover and paper used in the book are high gloss and will hold up to years of thumbing through, even from going in and out of a backpack on a "less than ideal weather condition" trip. The photography is excellent and I believe was shot by the author as well. It has the DK/Eyewitness books feel to it which I just love! I think his goal is for people to really "learn the plant" so you will recognize it anywhere.
I live in a more rural locale now, but I remember seeing several of the plants in this book in my yard from when I lived in the city. Where I live now, I was able to walk out my back door and find 3 of the edibles from the book within 10 minutes! I discovered that the weed taking up 80% of my garden is in fact actually lambsquarters, the very first plant in this book and one that the author would like to be renamed Wild Spinach. I have since found ample Common Mallow, Purslane, and Chickweed plants as well growing right in my garden and all are edible which I now know thanks to this wonderful guide.
Rural Homestead Group Owner [...]
85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2010
At our monster-big local bookstore, I looked through all the books on edible wild plants, and this one was by FAR the best! Rather than line drawings of hundreds of plants from all over, this book covers a more limited number of *readily available* wild edibles.
As a result, the info and photos of each plant is MUCH more detailed, including various ways it can be cooked (also with photos), the plant's life cycle and various edible/non-edible parts, photos of any similar NON-edible plants, etc.
I was interested in wild greens, and this book had a great discussion of not only how to decrease bitterness in the cooking process, but also which greens are less bitter, and what times of year are best for trying the more bitter ones. As a total novice, I'd been thinking of trying some dandelion greens, and was saved from getting overwhelmed and discouraged in that first experiment, and steered to some *much* better options. Since then I timed a dandelion-picking better according to the book's suggestions, and they were wonderful! (also, the author had some great thoughts about 'bitterness' in wild greens that have stayed with me since)
Since then, it seems like everywhere I look there are great edible greens growing in yards and wild spaces. This has been a wonderful addition to eating veggies from my garden. There's something so full of life about wild foods, grown right where *you* live and grow -- it's local, organic food taken to a whole new level.
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2011
If you are genuinely serious about learning AND eating edible wild plants on a regular basis, get this book. I have been gathering wild mushrooms for over 40 years, and foraging for wild foods for over 30 years. I am also a collector of wild mushrooms books, wild food books, wild edible flower books, and sea vegetable (seaweed) books, and have hundreds in my collection, all read cover to cover by the way. In short, if a book is about wild and edible, I probably have it, read it, or reviewed it. I'm hooked, and proudly so.
Dr. Kallas' book is comprehensive, while at the same time being user friendly, practical, and fun: It has better descriptions, deeper explanations, incredible photographs, current nutritional information, and a depth and breadth of facts and knowledge that is incomparable. He explains each plants life cycle in detail, discusses each stage of growth with appropriate photographs, and explains how to identify each of them. He shows and describes the one or more parts of each plant that are edible, where and how to gather them, when and how to prepare them, and includes tantalizing recipes that are accompanied with stunning photographs.
In addition, he discusses at length, the history and future of wild foods and how to grow a wild garden. He explains why eating wild food is not weird, but absolutely normal. And, he emphasizes why learning about, finding, gathering, and eating wild woods is an adventure that is rewarding and fun!
This book is not just a book on wild edible plant identification; it is an all-inclusive user manual, all presented with Dr. Kallas' subtle sense of humor. This book covers more useful information than any of the other books in my collection. If I could have only one book on edible wild plants, it would be Dr. Kallas', period!
112 of 130 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2010
I enjoyed this book for what it covered -- edible wild greens. It was thoughtful and very useful both in the kitchen and in the field. The pictures were great. The greens were divided into four categories, and each plant was described in detail as to identification, ways of eating it, and what you could expect in terms of taste and usefulness.
However, I was disappointed that many wild plants were not covered. No cat tails, no milk week (except to explain when it is not good), no mushrooms, no Jerusalem artichokes, no berries, no nuts, etc. In other words, tons of plants were ignored.
Now, maybe he intends to write a new book that is as good as this one that does cover the rest of the wild edibles. I hope he does.
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2010
Finally a book for beginning wild food foragers, John Kallas has nailed it! His new, very attractive book is user friendly both at home and in the field.
What I find very helpful is that Kallas took the time to explain the nature of the plant, what to beware of, and its rudimentary uses in logical and pragmatic terms. In contrast to my other books on wild plants, the photography is very detailed which is really helpful as a field resource. Another factor that makes this book attractive is that the Northwest, my home, is included in such a way that is more than an afterthought. One other important part of this book is the discussion John Kallas has with the reader regarding poisonous plants.
I would highly recommend this book to any wild food forager, especially those just starting out because of its "how to" nature. My only criticism of Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods From Dirt To Plate would be a wish that John Kallas would have included a few more plants, ex., nettle and wild cow parsnip. Perhaps another volume?
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2010
There is so much in this beautiful book; I am impressed. Excellent, clear photos, even showing the various forms that one plant species can take under different conditions, and well-vetted recipes combine to take the guesswork out of wild edible adventures for the average person. And if you want more info, it's here. Extensive literature review summarizes in one place an enormous amount of info - nutrition, lore, botany - about . . . well, weeds. Who knew?! I will never look at an abandoned lot (or my backyard) the same way.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2011
I ran across this book at a full price bookstore while I was browsing titles on my wish list that I wasn't sure if I wanted. I immediately recognized this as a book worth its weight in gold and proceeded directly to the checkout counter. True, it only covers a few plants, but most of the plants in the book can be found in the 48 states and Southern Canada so the audience for this book should be wide. I have formed the impression that if economic times ever got so bad that food disappeared from the store shelves, I would just work up a patch of ground, and let it go to "weeds." There would only be a few winter months of the year where finding enough to eat might be difficult. If you are a vegetable gardener, this book will definitely change your ideas of what a garden should be. I for one will not be worrying about keeping my garden weed free any more. A "Weedy" garden will allow you to save on garden seed; it will save a LOT of hard labor, and camouflage it from the marauding bands. You will eat better too. If you are heavy into the preparedness and survivalist mentality, this is a must have book! I will be watching for the rest of Mr. Kallas' books that he says are forthcoming.
Comparing this book with Samuel Thayer's first book, "The Forager's Harvest", I would favor this book if I could only pick one of the two books. Mr. Thayer covers more plants, but Mr. Kallas covers a few plants really, Really Well. Mr. Kallas' book would be more of a beginner's book as well. I would highly recommend both.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Beneficial foraging books
The opening paragraphs are designed to assist others avoid some of the pit falls I made in purchasing wild food literature. You can skip this and go directly to the individual book reviews if you choose. Please note that this review is of multiple wild food books. I prefer authors that work with the plants they are writing about, and don't just repeat things they read from another book (yes some wild food authors actually do that). I also prefer books with good descriptions, lots of photos of each plant to make identification easier, and to cover the plant from identification to the plate. That's my bias, here is my review.
I'm just a guy who likes to forage and enjoys the learning and nutritional aspect of wild foods. My main purpose for writing this review of multiple wild food books on one review is to assist others coming to wild foods for the first time (like I was three years ago), and to hopefully help them avoid some of the easily avoided pit falls I made in the literature I chose. At first I wanted books with the most plants in it for my money. It made sense to me at the time but ended up being a grave mistake. Books that devote one picture and a brief explanation to a plethera of plants helped me identify some plants in one stage of growth, but did next to nothing that would have allowed me to use them as food. Example, most books will show you one picture of the adult plant. Many times that's not when you want to harvest it. No one would eat a bannana that was over ripe and pure black and call banana's in general inedible due to that experience. Yet many who have sampled a dandelion have done exactly that. As I've learned from John Kallas, one has to have the right part of the plant (this includes proper identification of the plant), the plant has to be at the right stage of growth, and it has to be prepared properly. If you can't do those three things you shouldn't be sticking the plant in your mouth. Now on to the individual books.
Wild Edible Plants By John Kallas: 6 stars because it deserves more than 5
Instead of having hundreds of plants with one picture and one paragraph of information Kallas gives you less plants in far more detail and unmatched photography. If I could give this book to everyone in the United States I would as it is the best book I have found on the market. His descriptions of the plants are spot on and easy to read, his multiple full color pictures of each plant covered are the best I've seen in wild food literature, and he covers each plant from seedling to the dinner plate in stunning detail. If I could only own one book on wild edible foods this would be the one. No book can give you everything you need as a forager. That being said John does a superb job of plant selection in that most people in north america will be able to find all these plants within a mile of their home. For a guy taking care of two children under 3 years of age this book allowed me to forage while staying close to home. Consider this a must own. John also runs wild food adventures in Portland Oregon which offers wild food instruction in that area.
Nature's Garden By Samuel Thayer: 5.2 stars the second must own, and it too deserves more than 5 stars.
If I could only own two wild food books this would be the second one on my shelf next to John Kallas book. The section on Oaks and acorns are worth the price of the book by it self let alone the numerous other plants in it. Mr. Thayer uses color photographs at various stages of growth just like Kallas does. After you own Kallas book you will be hooked and Nature's Garden is the next logical progression in your journey. Other reviewers have covered Sam's brilliant rebutal to Jon Krakauer's propagandist poison plant fable of how Chris McCandless died. Chris died of starvation not a poisonous plant. Sam actually has this section of the book posted on his website for viewing (go to foragersharvest dot com), and is worth reading even if you don't buy the book. I really benefited from Sam's sections on the different wild lettuces, elderberries, thistles, and many others. On top of that Sam has the most engaging writing style of all the wild food authors I've encountered. Not only are his pictures only second to those of Kallas, his descriptions are spot on, and reading his books are like reading one of your favorite novels.
Foragers Harvest By Samuel Thayer 5 stars
I prefer Thayer's Nature's Garden over this book for my area. That being said I can't really say anything bad about this book. Good descriptions, excellent pictures at various stages of growth, good selection of plants, and done with accuracy. This book was to my knowledge the first of it's kind back when it was released back in the mid 2000's. To my knowledge it was the best book on the market then, and has only been surpassed by his follow up book Nature's Garden and Kallas Wild Edible Plants. Being the first book in this motif it (unjustly I might add) received numerous attacks by a few disgruntled souls on amazons book review section. One must remember Thayer was revolutionary in this field when he released this book, and people had a hard time adjusting. As my friend Stephen T. McCarthy once posted, "All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Well anyone who has used Sams books should understand the advantage of covering less plants in more detail than covering many plants with little to no detail like the over-hyped gimmick books that litter the wild food market do. I few things I really liked about this book include (but are not limited to): descriptions and photographs on cat tail, wapato, service berry, stinging and wood nettle. The canning section is solid for the beginning forager like I am. This in my opinion still fits the must own catagory.
Euell Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus 4.5 stars
Line drawings that are OK. Descriptions of the plants are excellent. Recipes are added by the author, plus his enthusiasm and good nature jump out at you through the page. I mostly use this book in conjunction with other books, and I never use it for it's photographs or line drawings. Not that their bad. Just not enough for a total novice in my opinion. Now his descriptions are excellent and should not be ignored.
Nancy J. Turner, "Food Plants Of Coastal First Peoples" and "Food Plants of Interior First Peoples" I'll give it 5 stars for ethnobotany and 4 stars as a foraging book.
If you live in the pacific northwest these books are MUST HAVES. A thorough grouping of the plants used by native americans for food in the pacific northwest. Why I only give it 4 stars is that it is essentially put in a field guide format which is very limiting when trying to use a plant for food. Plus while Turner is the queen of plants and uses in the pacific northwest, you'll only get a tenth of what she knows on any given plant. Kallas and Thayer go into much more detail, have numerous pictures, and lead their readers toward success. With Turner you'll get one good picture in one stage of growth. Through experience I've found that just isn't good enough. She does have more plants in her books than Kallas and Thayer but when you cover them in less detail that is to be expected. To be fair to Nancy I don't get the impression that these were designed specifically for foragers. All this being said I own them and wouldn't give them back if you paid me double what I paid for them.
Linda Runyan, The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide 3.8 stars, a good book.
Well first I do have some issues with this book: I'm not fond of the line drawings or black and white photos, she does edibility tests on wild foods and discovered many of them that way (which I'm not a fan of), and some of her descriptions are lacking in my opinion. All that being said she cans her wild foods, dries them for winter use, and lives off of wild edibles all year long successfully. She shares a lot of this knowledge with the reader in this book, and being a nurse myself I'm also able to relate to her thinking in a lot of ways. Plus her stories of using cat tail fluff as stuffing for a couch only to find out that it was infested with insect eggs was hilarious. She tells you all the mistakes she made so you don't have to repeat them. She will tell you to use two other good field guides along with hers. I would plan on not using hers at all for the pictures. I have issues with her lack of oversight on the pictures. I'm sure some will disagree but when Linda tells you in her video (by the same name) that her chickweed picture isn't very good it does bring to mind credibility questions.
Edible Wild Plants a North American Field Guide, by Elias and Dykemann. 3.5 stars
At one point in my very early stages I thought this book was the bomb. However, I would identify a plant, find it at times accidentally for the most part, and go "now what?" And that is the weakness of the field guide format in wild food literature (Thayer and Kallas do so much more for you). This book is almost the opposite of Linda Runyans in some ways. She doesn't give you good pictures but gives you some good details on what to do with the plant after you find it. This book gives you some good pitures, a brief description, and then says "your on your own kid." In Samuel Thayers "Foragers Harvest" he gives great descriptions between wood nettle and stinging nettle (both are edible when properly prepared). Thayer also happened to point out that this book actually has a picture of wood nettle and call it stinging nettle. I checked up on this, and lo and behold he was right. They have two pictures and one is wood nettle and one is stinging nettle. They are both listed as stinging nettle in the book. This tells me that the authors might not know all the plants as well as they should. Don't get me wrong I still like the book. But it does prove that wild food authors don't always use or know the plants their writing about.
Honorable mention goes to "Abundantly Wild" By Teresa Marrone. It is a wild food cook book. The pictures in the book are not great (though oddly beat many of the photos in supposed field guides) but I have read a few of the recipes and they look promising. I'll write a review about a year from now once I've put the book to the test. Until then I'll let you read the reviews on this book and make up your own mind.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2010
Finally there is a practical and easy to read book on wild plants that is useful for the beginner, the seasoned expert, and everyone in between. Dr. Kallas' extensive education and years of experience really show through in this book. The pictures cover every stage of growth and every edible part of the plant in vivid detail. You will not find a book with better pictures. He explains what stage of growth, what part of the plant, and in what environment it is best to harvest the plants. He goes on furthur to describe how to harvest and then prepare them for optimal taste, nutrition, and even aesthetic value. This book will be a classic that all other wild food books will be judged by. Bravo Dr. Kallas ... I look forward to the next books in your series!