Friday, May 24, 2013

On my book: Guide to Wild Foods

Christopher Nyerges
Why I wrote my books:
Guide to Wild Foods

[Nyerges is the author of 10 books, and teaches regular classes through the School of Self-reliance. He does a weekly podcast at Preparedness Radio Network, and blogs regularly at]

The first book I wrote was “Guide to Wild Foods.”  It represented my attempt to put my various notes and articles about plant lore and ethnobotany into some usable format.  If these notes were organized, others might be able to travel over the path I’ve struggled over a bit more easily.  But I actually compiled and wrote the book for my own personal use  and was happy to see that others found the book worthy of purchase.

I began “Guide to Wild Foods” in 1975, and I began by simply alphabetizing, by common name, all the notes on the various plants I’d been learning to identify, and then learning how to use them for food, medicine, or something else.

In my bedroom of my parents’ home, I kept my crude of my observations, my studies, and my recipes scattered in a somewhat organized fashion over every flat surface.  In 1976, I began by writing weekly columns for the now-defunct Altadena Chronicle as my first attempt to begin publishing my book.

With the help of various mentors, I began to more fully organize the notes into cogent chapters, got illustrations, and got the whole book printed and bound.

The first edition was a dream come true, but contained many typos.  By the next printing, I’d cleaned up the errors in the text, improved the drawings, and expanded the text. In fact, since it’s first appearance in 1978, I’ve updated the book nearly every time there was a new printing.

One of my greatest surprises came when I was listening to the old American Indian hour on Pasadena City College Radio early one Saturday morning. Dorothy Poole, aka Chaparral Granny, was talking about the uses of certain local wild plants.  As I listened, it sounded vaguely familiar.  I quickly pulled out my copy of “Guide to Wild Foods” and opened to the plant she was talking about.  Imagine my surprise to see that she was reading directly from my book!  I felt honored that she felt my compilation and personal commentary was worthy of sharing on the American Indian hour.

The book helps the beginner understand the basic botanical terminology, and quickly shows the reader how to best utilize many of the common wild plants for food, medicine, soap, etc. 

Many of the plants listed in this book are not  native, and are considered invasive weeds. They are the plants that gardeners love to pull up and toss in the trash, or worse, to spray Roundup on them so they don’t come back.

But it turns out that some of the wild foods are more nutritious than much of what we find in the supermarket. And they taste good too, if you simply take the time to learn how to prepare them.

In “Guide to Wild Foods,” you learn that the brown pod from the carob trees planted all over Southern California are edible, and are an excellent source of calcium and B vitamins.

You also learn that dandelion is the richest source of beta carotene (not carrots), and that purslane is the richest plant source of Omega 3 fatty acids, and that the common lambs quarter is like nature’s mineral tablet.

I include many of the Native American uses of plants, such as the yucca plant which was a valuble soap and fibre source, as well as three types of food. And you learn about many of the natural cures to poison oak, including the seemingly unusual treatment that I’ve done for the past 30 years.

“Guide to Wild Foods” is available at Amazon, at bookstores, and at  I hope you enjoy your copy!


mousiemarc said...

I have this book. I originally purchased it at the recommendation of Samuel Thayer. He had a glowing review of it on his web site. It's a fantastic resource. Thayer states that he keeps referencing it and is continually impressed with its accuracy. I agree with him.

My only small constructive criticism is that your black and white photos in the book (I purchased it new a year or two ago) dont come through well. I actually find the wild food photos in your excellent survival book much better.

Still, your book would be in my top four to five wild plant books (I own over 40 and have looked at 80 or more). A must own in my opinion. Can't find better or more accurate information in such a compact resource. A true gem. Thank you for writing it.


Christopher Nyerges said...

Marc, you are absolutely right about the small black and whites, which was the publishers idea, not mine. Fortunately, a color version is in the works! It's about a year off...

Pam Stephens said...

A much needed book, I have one on healing with herbs , but I need one that is in coler of plants that are edible and indigenous to the state of California