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Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples (Royal British Columbia Museum Handbook)

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0774805339
ISBN-10: 0774805331
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Editorial Reviews


As long as people have lived in North America, wild plants have been an important source of food. For Native people in western Canada, the nutritional and cultural contribution made by these plants was immense: in all, some 200 species of wild plants provided food. The different ways in which these were used resulted in an almost limitless selection of dishes derived from wild plants.

Now revised and updated, this popular handbook contains descriptions of more than 100 plants used for food by the original inhabitants of coastal British Columbia. Each description contains information about the habitat, the distribution in the region, and notes on how the plant was used. Colour photographs throughout the text aid in identification of the plants.

For those interested in Native history and culture, this book will provide an invaluable record of plant species used by individual groups and the different harvesting and preparation procedures associated with them. For naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts, it will introduce the wealth and diversity of wild edible plants found along the coast of British Columbia.

About the Author

Nancy J. Turner is Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria and research affiliate in botany at the Royal British Columbia Museum.

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Product Details

  • Series: Royal British Columbia Museum Handbook
  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: UBC Press (June 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0774805331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0774805339
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,115,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Paperback
Nancy Turner's coverage of food plants in her area is amazing. In this new edition, the photos are splendid and really aid in identifying the plants. She has found out about the plants from the people who have used them extensively. One of my favorite wild edible plant books!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I live on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State so, though this book discusses plants of British Columbia, most of them are familiar as they grow abundantly here also. I've long known that many of them were edible, but have hesitated for fear of misidentification. However, with this book, plus Janice Schofield's DISCOVERING WILD PLANTS, Thomas Elpel's BOTANY IN A DAY, and Samuel Thayer's THE FORAGER'S HARVEST, I feel more confident.

Nancy Turner has written a succinct introduction that includes the sources of her information; a bit of background on the climate, landscape, and Native people of the Pacific Coast; some fascinating insights on the way the people harvested, preserved and prepared their foods; and notes on the etiquette of gathering and sharing food plants.

In the main text the plants she discusses are: seaweeds, ferns, conifers, and flowering plants. For each entry she gives: Common and Latin names, Botanical Description, Habitat, Distribution in British Columbia, Aboriginal Use, and Warning, if one is necessary. She describes about 100 plants. There are obvious concerns: eating a plant at the wrong stage of maturity, eating too much of it, eating the wrong part of it, or not knowing the right way to process it. These concerns are addressed, and her own experiences are shared.

The seaweeds and the ferns are mostly photographed in black-and-white, which is a drawback. Many, if not most, of the photographs of the trees and flowering plants are in color, helping with easier identification. The photos (sometimes they are quite small and the leaf shape is not entirely obvious) are the weakest part of the book. I already knew most of these plants, but if I'd never seen them before these photos wouldn't be enough to go on, as far as actually eating them.
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