By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America
The Scout’s Guide to Wild Edibles, by Mike Krebill (St. Lynn’s Press, 2016, $18.95) is among the most useful books I’ve seen about foraging. It’s short, familiar and accessible. It lists only commonly items found in most of the United States and much of Canada.
The author curates just 33 plants and 10 mushrooms. Then, he tells you what to do with them in a list of 10 activities (scout leaders, listen up) and 17 recipes. Herbs are, of course, among the forage-able. They include amaranth, lambs quarters, stinging nettle and yellow wood sorrel.
I’ve collected comprehensive tomes of wild edibles. I have books of essays waxing sentimental about personal history. Krebill’s book is not one of these. And, I consider that an asset. This is a small, paperback I can carry with me and use in the field.
Krebill doesn’t spend time with memories and philosophies. He gets down to business and tells you what, where to find it, what to do with it and what to avoid. Complete with pictures, it’s plug-n-play. I’m keeping it in my car as a reference.
Perhaps my favorite thing about the book is its practical organization which includes information on harvesting sustainably, preparing and preserving. Or maybe the recipes which include dandelion donuts, purslane pickles and sumac lemonade. (Be careful with the dandelion donuts, my helper Allison – who has common weed allergies — had a reaction to dandelion bread last year.)
What surprised me are some of the cautions. For example, I didn’t know that unripe Mayapple fruit is toxic. The most worrisome about the book is the inclusion of pokeweed which is dangerous unless prepared properly.
Since I missed a gifting opportunity at Christmas, I may get extra copies to add to Easter baskets of my outdoorsy nephews. It’s a great little reference.
Krebill is a former science teacher and Boy Scout leader. He’s a member of the National Wild Foods Association Hall of Fame.