WHY I WROTE MY BOOKS
“Foraging Wild Edible Plants of North America”
By Christopher Nyerges
[Nyerges is the author of many foraging books, including “Foraging Wild Edible Plants of North America,” “Guide to Wild Foods,” and others. He has also been teaching ethnobotany for many years, in the field and classroom. Information about his books and classes is available from www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.
After the release of my first book (“Guide to Wild Foods”) in 1978, I was contacted by Stackpole Press in Pennsylvania who wanted to know if I could write a cookbook for them, based upon “Guide to Wild Foods.” Of course, I said yes.
So I took the plants from my book that are most common over most of North America, and began compiling all my recipes, as well as testing new ones. In addition, I added various stories about cooking on the trail, and the types of gear and condiments you should always carry if you want a good meal. Then I spent considerable time trying to come up with catchy names for the various recipes. The result a year later was “Wild Greens and Salads.” The book sold a few thousand copies a year and was never re-printed after the first edition.
Nearly 30 years later, I’d started writing foraging books for the Falcon Guides. They were aware of my previous cook book, and wondered if I could revise it with full color photos and lots of new information. Of course, I said yes.
I worked for another year to update the text, to delete some plants and to add new ones. Also, I once again spent considerable time coming up with catchy names to the recipes, usually recalling the first time I tried the recipe. This is somewhat ironic too, coming from a guy who hardly uses recipes, and generally just follows the basics of cooking that was taught to me by mother. For those who wonder if there is actually any food value to plants found in the wild, there is a chart at the end of the book detailed the nutritional analysis of many of the wild foods in the book, based upon the USDA’s “Analysis of Foods.” You’ll be amazed that wild foods are generally more nutritious than much of what you buy at the supermarket.
This revised book is called “Foraging Edible Wild Plants of North America,” focusing primarily on leafy greens for salads, soups, and other dishes. (I could eventually do a sequel to this, about all the wild nuts and berries that are found widely in North America, not just in a given locale.)
I was really happy with the result, and the way the color photos turned out. It’s 211 pages full of wild recipes, and various ways to use wild foods, their nutritional value, and the ways to process the plants, with full color photos of every plant.
The books has lots of interesting recipes. Those of you who have come to my wild food classes know the ways I prepared wild foods, so many of the recipes in this book will seem familiar.
Some of the recipes’ names incorporate some memory of when I first came up with that recipe: Chardon Crepes (from when I lived in Chardon, Ohio), Big Bend Breakfast (a cattail dish my brother and I cooked up in Texas), the David Ashley Special (a salad of wild greens devised by David, and I wonder if David even remembers this?), Crisptado Fantastico (my unique chickweed tostada), Chicory Hicory Dock (everyone’s favorite), Point Reyes Sunset (a curly dock and clam soup that we first made at Point Reyes Seashore), Altadena Meadows Casserole (a nettle dish that I’d make when I lived in the Meadows), Hahamongna Swamp Salad (that’s self-explanatory, right?), and Tongva Memories (a watercress soup).
Perhaps my favorite recipes are the Lamb’s Quarter recipes, because I use that plant nearly every day, both the leaf and seed. It’s a relative of the now-popular quinoa.
Lamb’s quarter can be made into salads, soups, stews, and even bread when you use the seed. You might like my Earth Bread made from the seeds. From the reviews of those who have tasted it, some like it, some do not.
According to the book, “I’ve served this Earth Bread to many foragers and have had mixed responses. A few people did not like it and said it tasted like dirt. There have also been ecstatic responses from people who found the bread ‘virile,’ ‘deliciously wholesome and amazing,’ and ‘primitive.’” You’ll have to try it for yourself and see what you think.
Here is the recipe:
1 cup lamb’s quarter seed
1 cup acorn flour
3 tsp. Baking powder
3 Tablespoons honey
1 cup raw milk
3 tablespoons oil
You blend everything and bake it until done. You can also water this down and use the batter for pancakes.
This book also has an introductory section which includes photos of Dude McLean cooking a broth in a cut-out yucca bowl, and Pascal Baudar making a wild mustard, and Gary Gonzales showing a miner’s lettuce leaf.
The cheapest way to get a copy is through Amazon. The retail is $22.95, and you can also get an autographed copy at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.