This book recently appeared on my household’s field guide shelf, much to my excitement. I’m always interested in learning a bit more about wild edibles, and this book is hands down the best and most practical field guide to wild foods I’ve found.
John Kallas grew up in a suburban neighbourhood where he spent much of his time practicing his outdoor skills and eating whatever wild foods he could find. In college, he pursued a science degree while taking courses in wilderness survival, nutrition and edible wild plants, and spent his summers traveling through along back roads of the European countryside, foraging food and learning about the each region’s traditional foodways. Over the years, he completed degrees in biology and zoology, a master’s in education, a PhD in nutrition, and obtained training in botany and nature photography. He has been teaching about wild foods since 1978. Which is to say, he is a guy who knows his wild foods.
Kallas was disappointed in most available wild food guides, finding them to be broad summaries of edible foods, without enough information on the appearance of plants in all their various different stages, and lacking detailed information on how to prepare the foods (let’s face it, wild foods are a lot more appealing if they are palatable, not just edible). He wrote Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate to remedy these shortcomings, and I think he did a damn fine job. This guide is chock full of good quality colour photos and detailed descriptions, which made me feel confident that I could actually successfully identify the plants I was learning about. Also, he includes lots of detailed recipes and cooking instructions which give a clear picture of what the foods will taste like and how to best use them. Almost all of the recipes looked delicious, not just edible. I would be totes stoked to chow down on a chickweed burrito, faux gumbo or vegan meringue made from mallow, curly dock pie filling, sheep sorrel pesto, wood sorrel ice cream topping or or any one of a ton of tasty recipes included.
Unfortunately, the Victoria library does not carry this book, but we picked up our copy at Bolen’s, and it’s put out by a reasonably big publisher and should be widely available. You can also check out John Kallas’ website, Wild Food Adventures. You can find out more about his cool looking courses in wild foods and wilderness survival (see Kallas and some students in mid food prep at the left), and you shouldn’t miss the excellent book review section. Also, if you’re jonesing for more wild food info right away, check out this article Kallas wrote on making dandelions delicious.