Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in wild (and not so wild) places

ISBN 0-688-11425-3

318 pages, s


© Steve Brill with Evelyn Dean, 1994, William Morrow & Company

"Wildman" Steve Brill became famous for eating a dandelion while instructing a tour group in New York's Central Park back in 1986. He was arrested and subsequently exonerated after the onslaught of national publicity. The City not only dropped the charges against him, they hired him to teach tour groups about foraging in the parks. Brill has been interested in gourmet vegetarian cooking for over twenty years and has had an interest in the identification and preparation of wild foods at least as long. Evelyn Dean has been working together with Brill on various writing and television projects since 1985 and has also led tours on wild foods as well as ecology. She is an artist, writer, naturalist and gourmet chef in her own right. Together, these two have put together an easy-to-read, informative, and, well, delicious, book.

Brill's book reminds us that we don't have to go out into the woods to find natural foods. If we have a back yard, we may have a salad or vegetable dish waiting for us out there. He has collected natural foods from all sorts of places, but he cautions that you have to be careful not to use plants that have been subjected to pollutants like exhaust fumes and the chemical sprays used by road crews, railroad companies, and even private homeowners.

Hundreds of excellent drawings depict the plants in great detail, showing not only how they look in flower, but at other times of the year as well. Roots, seeds, leaves and other parts are beautifully drawn and labeled for ease of identification. Clear and detailed explanations are given to allow you to differentiate between food plants and those that are possibly dangerous to ingest or touch. Color photographs couldn't add more information to the drawings provided here other than the color itself, so nicely are they done. And the colors are well described in the text. Brill has shown his concern for his readers in keeping the cost of his publication down by avoiding the photographs, which he feels limit you to only one view of a particular plant, and of course, that's true.

Once you've collected your wild foods, you need to know what to do next. Brill's book describes the proper techniques for safely and easily cleaning, preserving and preparing the plants. There is also an appetizing selection of recipes using all natural products, though some substitutions are suggested.

So, next time you're out in your backyard pulling weeds, take this book with you. You might just get a great idea for dinner!


Reviewed by Lynn Carrick