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307 of 314 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars regional orientation should be more clearly disclosed, August 15, 2010
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This review is from: The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants (Paperback)
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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Tracked by 7 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 16, 2010 8:54:14 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Feb 2, 2011 8:57:54 PM PST
Sam Thayer says:
You make a good point, but this is really a conundrum. To be particularly useful in California, a book has to be regionally specific to California. The vegetative communities of California vary dramatically from that of all other parts of the country, and California has far more endemic species than any other state. That is why California tends to have tree, shrub, wildflower, and other field guides specific to it. The only way I could have catered to California edibles is by including lots of plants that are unavailable to the vast majority of Americans. It is an ecological and geographic reality that most people in smaller bioregions understand. The largest bioregion of the US is the eastern forest, followed by the great plains, followed by the rocky mountains, and these three bioregions encompass the vast majority of the land area and population of our nation. Naturally, a book focusing on the whole country will include primarily plants of these bioregions and tend to ignore plants that have a limited distribution in only one smaller bioregion. Especially if the book only cover say, 32 out of 500 edible plants.
That being said, just under half of the plants in the book are found in California, which is fairly representative of California's uniqueness. I understand that the book is more useful in other parts of the country, but that doesn't make it useless where you are. Christopher Nyerges' "Guide to Wild Foods" has a clear bias for California plants that is not at all revealed in the title, yet that doesn't bother me a bit. I am glad he kept to the plants that his own experience made him particularly knowledgeable about.
That being said, I understand your complaint--it has certainly been made by others. I just don't know of any good resolution to it, other than a very cumbersome subtitle. The common solution to this problem, of course, has been for authors to include plants about which they have no or virtually no firsthand knowledge, and I didn't want to do that.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 6, 2010 1:23:54 PM PDT
Sam, I'm buying your book. Can you recommend any other books specifically for Texas? Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 2, 2011 8:55:28 PM PST
Sam Thayer says:
There is a book "Edible Plants of Texas and the Southwest" or something like that by Delena Tull. It's pretty good. I'd rate it 3.5 or maybe 4 stars. I guess 4 because 3.5 isn't an option.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 9:23:28 AM PST
Dianna says:
I need a book specific to California and Mexico. Is there such a book?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2013 4:23:40 PM PDT
Mo H. says:
As Sam said, "Christopher Nyerges' "Guide to Wild Foods" has a clear bias for California plants"

Posted on Jul 3, 2013 5:16:45 PM PDT
Cat Weekly says:
Thanks for your post. I'm living in California and plan on moving to Oregon in a couple of years so this book wouldn't have much use to me. I find my Texas books somewhat helpful here. I really need a book focused on Western States wild edibles beyond cat tails and cactus pads.
Cat Weekly

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2013 12:12:36 PM PDT
Dave says:
I'm from S. Cal and now have a book that received great reviews on Amazon. It's called Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory L. Tilford. I really like it. The Oregon area and other NW areas seem to get full coverage in the book. Might be worth checking out. I may be heading back to E. Texas, so I'll probably be ordering Sam's book and a couple of others.

Posted on Sep 4, 2013 4:00:27 PM PDT
P. Shepard says:
California may be, "only one smaller bioregion," but considering the population I'd say that region represents a much more significant portion of your target market than that description of the area's biodiversity would suggest. There are 41.8M people living in the Great Plains (2007 US Census), the second largest "bioregion" referenced by the author. There are 38.04M people living in CA (2012 US Census). The author's concern over including a cumbersome subtitle seems disingenuous. I'm a Californian, and I'm glad I read these reviews before buying this particular book.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2013 6:30:15 AM PDT
Did you completely miss the part where he said he's not from Ca and chose to only include plants from his personal experience? Feel free to pick an author from Ca instead of insulting this one. He even recommended one, I thought that was pretty decent of him

Posted on Sep 27, 2013 6:48:34 AM PDT
ChristineMM says:
A forager in California has a niche market and should get writing, I think! Someone should write a book for Californians!
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