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Dandelion Hunter: Foraging The Urban Wilderness First Edition Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0762780624
ISBN-10: 0762780622
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Although the apocalypse didn’t arrive on December 21 last year as predicted by fretful Mayan-calendar devotees, there are still plenty of reasons to have a fallback plan for securing your next meal. As the author of this autobiographical adventure in urban-wilderness foraging points out, hurricanes, tsunamis, and solar storms can strike without warning, triggering economic collapse and barren grocery shelves. In May 2009, Portland, Oregon, resident Lerner wanted to prove to herself that she could survive for a week strictly on plants growing in city parks and vacant lots; dumpster diving and community-garden raids were strictly off-limits. While her initial attempts to choke down burdock roots and dandelion greens failed, Lerner was determined to learn as much she could about the nutritional and medicinal value of local plant life by consulting journals and nutritional experts. This very readable, often amusing outcome of her research and experiments results in an uplifting story of contemporary self-sufficiency, as well as an inspiring guidebook that looks beyond farmer’s markets to the living food in our own backyards. --Carl Hays


“Rebecca Lerner writes that ‘the dirt on which we walk is made of stars.’ So are we. And so is this elegant book, which illuminates a path to a nature-rich future.”  — Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods

“If and when the apocalypse arrives, you’ll want Rebecca Lerner by your side – or, at least, her lucidly written new book, in which she and a pack of endearingly odd Portland pals demonstrate how to take locavorism to a whole new level (and provide some unexpected history, biology and mycology lessons in the process). You’ll never look at weeds the same way again.”  — Brian Hiatt, senior writer, Rolling Stone 

“Rebecca Lerner proves that foraging in today's urban landscape is not only possible, but remarkably productive. In this charismatic and delightfully unpredictable book, she shares her experiences and insights in a way that touches upon the profound without being preachy.”  — Samuel Thayer, author of The Forager's Harvest and Nature's Garden

“Wild girl herbalist Becky Lerner plunges into the green world on page one and keeps the reader dazzled with one crazy adventure after another, all the while educating us in the art of hunting the wild dandelion. Never has practical advice about wild foraging been so entertaining. Move over Euell Gibbons.” — Matthew Wood, author of The Book of Herbal Wisdom

“In 2007, after an epiphany while visiting upstate New York, Lerner cut loose from her newspaper reporter job in the urban wastelands of New Jersey to embark upon the “mysterious, powerful, and esoteric” work of herbalism and explore nature. This book relates her hunter-gatherer adventures through the streets, parks, yards, and environs of her new home in Portland, Ore., accompanied by her dog, Petunia, and a revolving cast of botanical experts and quirky friends: a wilderness survival teacher who introduces her to burdock-root and ant-egg cuisine; a “freegan” dumpster diver retrieving 50 pounds of gourmet ravioli and parmesan from a waste bin; an urban homesteader illegally but reverently butchering a roadkill deer….[the result] may be the funniest herbal adventure you’ll ever read.” — Publishers Weekly



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Product Details

  • Paperback: 215 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; First Edition edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762780622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762780624
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #494,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book chronicles the adventures of the author and her interactions with the wild foods that grow in the vicinity of her home in Portland, OR, and the people she meets along the way.

First she tries to survive on wild foods in the city with a scant amount of knowledge, and fails. As she learns not to trust botanist-authors who know nothing about food preparation and even less about foraging (an experience common to many forgers), she experiments on her own and with experienced local foragers. Things improve as she continues to have fascinating experiences breaking new ground. A crushing disappointment to fans of Into the Wild, she doesn't even die in the end. Instead, she continues to learn and thrive, and is now one of the most respected foraging experts of her region.

My approach to foraging (I lead foraging tours in the Greater NY area) revolves around science and gourmet cooking, not survivalism, so it was great fun and refreshing for me to see a take on the subject that differs from mine. I love the descriptions of all the characters the author meets, and respect her growing knowledge of the plants and fungi of The Northwest. In fact, the book is so well-written and funny that I greatly enjoyed every page.

If you already forage, you'll love this book. If you don't forage, beware: After you've read it, you'll be wondering about the diversity of green things you'll start noticing all around you, until you either take up foraging yourself, or you die of curiosity!
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Format: Paperback
Following a similar path as Euell Gibbons, Learner has written a narrative account of her experiences with wild food. However, it's a completely different product and in no way replaces (or really competes) with Euelle Gibbons books.

The first 2/3 of this book really caught my attention. The story was quite interesting and I especially enjoyed the story of how she developed her wild food knowledge. She's even specific about what plants she is using/collects by including their scientific names. Another exciting part of the book were her philosophical discussions related to foraging.

The last 1/3 or so of the book I found less interesting and skimmed it a lot more. A couple of the chapters I thought could have been left out all together. That being said, if you're looking for a narrative account of learning about wild food, this is a good read.
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First I would like to say that the only picture in this book is the one you see on the front cover. This book was not designed to be a field guide. That being said there is more to learning about foraging, plants, and nature than looking at pictures. This book has a lot to offer any potential forager.

What you do have here is a tremendous story of how Ms. Lerner started as a typical reporter in New Jersey with little to no knowledge of foraging. This book details her journey from being a novice to now being one of the most knowledgeable urban foragers of our time. This is a tremendous read and points you in the right direction as an up start forager of wild and medicinal plants.

My personal favorite moments were her adventures through old archeological sites of native americans (totally blew my mind). Not only do you learn a few things about foraging, you get a well rounded education on environmental toxins to watch for, that we are part of nature, and more. Most importantly, she does an excellent job of explaining and easing the beginning forager through some of the mental obstacles society has placed in our psyche. She rightly describes how many of the "stay away from nature" (my term) movements and laws have actually harmed the world around us by making people unfamiliar with the plants and world their destroying.

The index in the back of useful blogs, articles, and books is worth the price of this book all by itself. You have NO IDEA how much money I've wasted on books with bad information, and by authors who didn't speak from experience. Lerner gives you one of the best book lists a beginning forager can have. I personally have a good number of the books she recommends, and can say with authority from experience that she picks the good ones.
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A sincere effort to express the foraging philosopy that just misses for me. The writer's essays are too personal, have an anecdotal feel but lack the detail to convey the nature of her urban environment. Unless you actually live there, you won't get a feel for the place, the people, or the foraging.

As far as botanical information, take extreme care using this as a guide. Anyone who starts a beginning forager out looking for wild carrot is jumping into the area of plant identification with two of the most difficult plants imaginable. A wild carrot can easily be mistaken for water hemlock. Beginning foraging? Get a decent guide book and better yet, find a reliable actual person to walk around with. You'll find tons of wild edibles and gain a deeper appreciation for the actual world we are in.
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I bought this book because Rebecca Lerner and I were once colleagues in the newspaper business and -- since she moved to the great Northwest -- keep in touch via Facebook. I mention that both in the interest of full disclosure and because it underscores the fact that I had no other interest in the subject matter of "Dandelion Hunter." So it's an indication of what she has achieved that I found this book hard to put down. Through her Facebook posts, I was aware of Rebecca's work as an urban forager, so I was going over somewhat familiar ground when I read in this book about the nutritional and medicinal benefits of various species, although many of the details were new to me. (A person of my advanced age, for instance, is interested to learn that kudzu is a treatment for tinnitus.)I also learned about the natural and human history of what is now Oregon. But what was most important to a conventional person like me was being reminded of all the things that are hidden in plain sight in our environment as well as the assumptions many or most of us make about what is useful and what is not. To go even deeper, Rebecca reminds us that the most popular modes of living are not necessarily the best modes of living, that living a "normal" life often means living in ways that damage ourselves and the world around us. In this sense, she is, in the best meaning of the word, a prophet -- someone who bravely steps out of the mainstream in order to call attention to neglected truth. And she does this with sharply honed prose and the humor, sometimes biting, that I enjoyed so much in the newsroom. Read it, and grow a little.
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