Monday, June 09, 2014

"Foraging California" -- the latest book by Nyerges

“Foraging California: Finding, Identifying, and Preparing Edible Wild Foods in California,” is a Falcon Field Guide by Christopher Nyerges, the latest of Nyerges’ books, just released in late May of 2014. The 244 page book is full color, and is organized by plant family, according to the latest Jepson Manual (“Higher Plants of California”).

I began my interest in the use of wild plants when I was approximately 10 years old, trying to discover the practical applications of how Native Americans once lived without the benefit of supermarkets, hardware stores, or hospitals.  Everything was obtained from the land, and that was mostly from plants.

As I entered high school, and even worked at the local library, I found few resources for study.  There were no videos then, and very few of the plant books were in color.  There was no internet.  So I took botany classes, went to lectures, and made friends with the local botanists. Many times I rode my bicycle across town to learn just one new plant.

I compiled my various notes, and with the assistance of friends, that pile of notes became my very first book, “Guide to Wild Foods.”  I felt I’d arrived early one Saturday morning when I heard Dorothy Poole reading from my book on the American Indian Hour that used to appear on KPCC.

After 40 years of teaching these skills, and 10 books later, I was asked by the publisher of guide books to produce a book exclusively on the edible plants of California.  The book is  “Foraging California,” with a foreword by Paul Campbell (author of “Survival Skills of Native California”), and I dedicated it to my teacher and mentor, Dr. Leonid Enari, who taught that the way to learn about plants was to understand their familial relationships.  Based on the methods I learned by Dr. Enari, I emphasize in this book that there are many safe families, and that there are many more foods beyond what is in this illustrated book.

The book includes a map of the state of California, showing the distribution of wild foods by environment. Also included are nutritional charts, a chart for wild bread and wild sugar sources, and the wild food test which I use in the classroom.

Whereas my “Guide to Wild Foods” book goes much more in-depth into individual plants, “Foraging California” presents a much broader view of edible plants, in the context of their families. 

Because this new book contains all color photographs, I had to go out on many expeditions to get photos at just the right time. This was not an easy task, considering that California has experienced two drier than usual winters, which results in a lot less flora.   Still, Rick Adams and I managed to get out many times to the desert, ocean, and other areas to capture some of the photos you now see in this beautiful book.

Another friend, Pascal Baudar, also participated in this book. Baudar, and his girlfriend Mia Wasilevich, practice gourmet cooking with wild foods.  They kindly contributed many of their unique recipes which appear throughout this book.

Nyerges can be reached at , or School of Self-reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.  “Foraging California” is available wherever books are sold, including Amazon, and the Store at

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