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The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants Paperback – May 15, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sam Thayer was born in Wausau, Wisconsin, where he first learned to gather wild food in vacant lots, backyards, city parks, and at the edge of town. Later, his family moved to rural southern Wisconsin, and then to Madison. Sam's first presentation on edible wild plants was to his seventh grade science class, demonstrating the foods that he collected regularly on his three-mile walk to school. He began "survival camping" at fourteen and led his first wild food walks when he was 19. After graduating from high school, he moved near the south shore of Lake Superior and built a rustic log cabin on an abandoned farmstead, chasing his childhood dream of "living off the land" while working part-time at a variety of jobs.

Since 2000, when he won the Hazel Wood National Wild Foods Cooking Contest, Sam has been teaching regularly on edible wild plants, giving workshops across the United States. In 2002 he was inducted into the National Wild Foods Hall of Fame at North Bend State Park in West Virginia. Along with speaking and writing, he is also a maple syrup producer, wild rice harvester, and owns a small organic orchard.

Besides wild food foraging, Sam is an all-around naturalist with particular interest in reptiles, amphibians, bird watching, botany, and mammals. His passion for wild food extends to studying the origin of cultivated plants and the socio-economic history of the human diet.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Forager's Harvest Press; 1 edition (May 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0976626608
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976626602
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (438 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sam Thayer was born in Wausau, Wisconsin, where he first learned to gather wild food in vacant lots, backyards, city parks, and at the edge of town. Later, his family moved to rural southern Wisconsin, and then to Madison. Sam's first presentation on edible wild plants was to his seventh grade science class, demonstrating the foods that he collected regularly on his three-mile walk to school. He began "survival camping" at fourteen and led his first wild food walks when he was 19. After graduating from high school, he moved near the south shore of Lake Superior and built a rustic log cabin on an abandoned farmstead, chasing his childhood dream of "living off the land" while working part-time at a variety of jobs.

Since 2000, when he won the Hazel Wood National Wild Foods Cooking Contest, Sam has been teaching regularly on edible wild plants, giving workshops across the United States. In 2002 he was inducted into the National Wild Foods Hall of Fame at North Bend State Park in West Virginia. His first book, The Forager's Harvest, has won a Midwest Book Award, IPPY Book Award, and was a finalist for the USA Book News Best Books 2007 award. It has been a steady Amazon category best-seller and has sold more than 70,000 copies. His second book, Nature's Garden, has received similar acclaim and sold over 35,000 copies. He currently lives in the woods of northwestern Wisconsin with his wife, Melissa, their daughter, Myrica, and son, Joshua. Along with speaking and writing, he is also a maple syrup producer, wild rice harvester, and owns a small organic orchard.

Besides wild food foraging, Sam is an all-around naturalist with particular interest in reptiles, amphibians, bird watching, botany, and mammals. His passion for wild food extends to studying the origin of cultivated plants and the socio-economic history of the human diet.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

750 of 752 people found the following review helpful By Washu-chan on December 13, 2006
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I am a botanist and I'm in love with this book. Admittedly, it treats only a few dozen plants, but each is described in detail, with methods of distinguishing it in the field from similar species, harvesting, and preparing it. Numerous color photos are very useful. There are good general discussions of plant identification, harvesting, and preservation. The author complains about previous edible plant references, which exhaustively list hundreds of plants but give inadequate information on each, and frequently recycle information from previous literature, allowing misinformation to creep in (an undeniable problem). Thayer proposes that writers on edible plants should provide only information from their own experience or else specifically referenced information, a praiseworthy code of conduct and one that really makes this book shine. When he gives you detailed instructions for when and how to gather and prepare a plant, you know that he's actually done it himself and it worked. I like his standards for the plants as well: Food should taste good! If it doesn't taste good, he says, don't eat it! So, while other books provide long lists of "survival foods" that would gag a goat, Thayer discusses only the plants that he actually enjoys eating. He tells you what sort of quality to expect in the final products, and whether they will be worth the work you put into them. The only volume I can recall seeing of remotely similar quality was Steve Brill's book, which dealt with a different set of plants (emphasizing the common "weedy" species that Thayer is not particularly interested in), so if you already have Brill, you can buy this too. Otherwise, if you want to start learning to use edible wild plants, start with this volume.
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468 of 473 people found the following review helpful By William Smith on October 19, 2006
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I have 3 books on wild food foraging, including Angier's Wild Edibles and Gibbons Stalking the Wild Asparagus. Both those books are very good for plant details except they rely on hand drawn depictions for the plants, which it makes them close to useless for accurate identification. Forager's Harvest is the BEST book of the three for getting a beginner started. Lots and lots of nice color photographs of the plants. When choosing a book in getting started in foraging, you must have color photographs, there is no substitute.

Forager's Harvest, unlike Gibbons and Angier books, does not overwhelm the reader with large numbers of edible plants, choosing to focus on a lower but still fairly good number of readily found and easily identitified plants for foraging. This increases the reader confidence and starts them off gradually.

If you are starting out in foraging, this is the book you should get. If you are botanist and have no problems identifying plants them Gibbons or Angier books might suit you better. As I am a beginner, I can say that of the three books, Forager's Harvest if the book that I will be using in my plant foraging expeditions. I wish I had gotten this book first.
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254 of 259 people found the following review helpful By anonymous on February 18, 2007
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This book offers an excellent introducion to the practice of wild plant harvesting. Not only are the plants discussed (in great detail), but the author includes many personal experiences and additional information (the first 75 pages - timing, storage, etc.) - including recomendations on further book resources. The descriptions of the two dozen or so plants are extensive. The book gives information on ID, range, harvesting, and preparation. I live in Washington State, though, and I have only found about 11 of the plant species readily available here (Choke Cherry, Wapato, Butternut(in urban settings), Black Locust, Cattail, Stinging Nettle, Serviceberry, Sumac (Staghorn), Linden (urban ornamental), Burdock, and Thistle). The book is still a wealth of inforomation and a very valuable resource.
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364 of 374 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Crowell on August 15, 2010
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I'm giving this book a three-star review as a compromise between its usefulness to me as a Californian (which would result in one star) and what I perceive to be its usefulness to people in the eastern US (which could very easily be five stars). The book's regional orientation should be more clearly disclosed. It can't be detected from the title, front cover, or back cover. Here on amazon, it can't be detected from the product description. For someone buying the book on amazon, the only way to tell that the book is regionally specific is either (a) to use the Look Inside feature and stumble across p. 4, or (b) to sift through the large number of reviews and find the few that point this out. This book does describe a small number of species that are useful food sources in California, but the vast majority of the ones described do not grow here, and it omits some of the most useful species that do grow plentifully here, such as miner's lettuce and wild onions. I wouldn't have any problem with this if the title of the book was "The Forager's Harvest: Wild Food East of the Rockies," or if the product description mentioned that it was so regionally specific. The author's defensive reaction to Dale Adkison's review is that the book can't be all things to all people. That's valid, but people like me are wasting money on this book because there is no easy way to tell that it's specific to one region.
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