Sunday, 2 October 2011

I Bought A Book: The Thrifty Forager

That moment where two things you love come together in one package? That moment is now. And I'm very happy. Earlier this month a book was published by Alys Fowler about foraging. For me at least that is very exciting. But how can we make it more exciting?

Well for one thing I could afford a copy. I saw it on Amazon and went to sniff a real life copy in town, just to flick through, see what information I had elsewhere and make an assessment on how desperate I am to get a copy. Very by the way. On my way to being a productive member of society I ducked inside the discount book shop just to see if they also had a copy. Just on the off chance. And I came out happy. It was £4.99 and I may be hard up but I did have a fiver in my pocket that day. Bliss.

So what makes this different for all my other foraging books. Let me count the ways... It's actually less about foraging and more about, as the title suggests, 'living off your local landscape' which yes means foraging but also means it's full of encouragement to start community growing schemes, and get together with people to get yourself fed. There is even advice on how to grow these wild foods, taming them for your own back yard.

There are three case studies from different parts of the world showing plant geekery and community efforts to make the most of the landscape they are surrounded with. Each one is truly inspiring. Turn the pages and there are some fab recipe ideas including the best and most user friendly basic jam, jelly and chutney formulas I've ever seen.
A bowl from my own edible landscape

And then we get to the plants. Each edible described beautifully. Not everyone has a picture which, along with the size of the book, rules it out from being a field guide but it's not really trying to be. It's nice to see the plants that are pictured show context. Gives me a better idea of what to look for.

What is especially wonderfully different is this book is it's more urban focus. Perfect for all those cherry trees in municipal planters. It's full of the joy and gentle encouragement that you expect of a book with 'Alys Fowler' written across the front cover and that is just what I needed to take my own foraging skills and applying them close to home.
The rowan tree you can see from my balcony. Where?

You see I do notice that elderberry or those escaped herbs. Most of the bay I use in the kitchen comes from the centre piece in a decorative bedding scheme. But I've always been a bit reluctant to do any real foraging. Inspired I filled my hand bag full of Rowan berries on the way back from a meeting and used them to make a tiny test batch of Rowan jelly. The berries came from the estate. One of the trees you can see from my flat.
There it is!

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend adding this to your foraging library. And if you don't have a foraging library it will make you want to start one. The Thrifty Forager: Living Off Your Local Landscape


  1. I've always fancied trying foraging for wild ingredients, but I don't think even a book like this would give me the confidence. I would still probably end up picking something inedible and possibly poisonous. My two year old would probably adore going out and picking the ingredients but would be wanting to sample and would be trying many things she shouldn't making her very ill! Perhaps when she is a bit older and I am a little braver!!

  2. I understand the nervousness, it took a few years of wanting to forage before I actually got the courage to do it. For me it was having a partner that didn't think I was strange to want to pick at wild plants. I just stuck with super simple things like blackberries, dandelions and wild garlic, slowly increasing my knowledge by about 4 or 5 plants a year and making sure I was really comfortable with them.

    I'm pretty comfortable identifying most things from books but you could try finding a local forager on or somewhere similar.

    Getting a two year old not to eat everything is another matter entirely but I've foraged with kids a few years older and they do love it. I dropped one girl off with her mother absolutely obsessed with eating beech leaves!