New Book Helps You Forage for Your Supper

By Parrish, Marlene | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 14, 2014 | Go to article overview

New Book Helps You Forage for Your Supper


Parrish, Marlene, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Why forage? Wild, edible plants, flowers and fruits offer tastes and textures money can't buy. You won't find purslane or pawpaws, Juneberries or elderberries in the supermarket. So how and where to find them? You need a guide.

"Northeast Foraging" by Leda Meredith (Timber Press, 2014, $24.95) is a regional foraging book for both beginners and old hands. Part of a series, this one covers Pennsylvania as well as Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Rhode Island, as well as Ontario and Quebec. It features more than 120 of the tastiest and easiest-to-find plant varieties, every one photographed in color. Seasonal lists of when and where to find them make the guide particularly valuable.

The author explored woods, meadows, seashore and even urban neighborhoods for wild, edible plants. Along with detailed information about safe identification, she tells how to gather, makes suggestions for preparing and eating plus how to use and preserve them.

The book is organized for seasonal use. Ms. Meredith tells how to forage sustainably and safely, what gear to bring, and what clothes to wear, though that last part comes too late to help me. I have already found out that stinging nettles certainly do. They may make a good soup or side dish, but don't wear shorts and sandals when you hunt them.

My advice to anyone who would like to "eat out" is to buy a copy of this book. I sure wish I'd had a reference like this when I was growing up.

Back in the day

Foraging was a perk of my childhood, a gift passed along as a natural and cultural thing from my Slovenian parents and grandparents. They didn't call it foraging, though, if they even knew the word.

I grew up in suburban Mt. Lebanon before "progress" paved over the meadows, fields and woods. Wild food was a given for most of the kids in our neighborhood. We picked all kinds of things, inspected them for bugs and dirt and enjoyed nature's free snacks on the spot. If we weren't sure if it was OK to eat or not, we just asked an older, more experienced pal.

One field, close by Cedar Lake, was dense with tiny, wild strawberries, no bigger than a fingernail. Sometimes my mother would send us with a small pail with instructions to fill it, and that night we'd have strawberry pie. Walking through the woods on the way to Markham School, we'd pick the umbrella-shaped leaves of May apples and pretend it was raining; later, we'd take bites of the little fruit. Maybe some roads back then didn't have sidewalks, but often they were lined with black raspberry bushes. I loved sweet red clover for summer wild flower bouquets, and I might have had bigger bunches if I didn't munch so many.

When elderberry bushes flowered in spring, we kids would take notice. Then in August, we'd get up early, carry chip baskets (borrowed from Mr. …

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