Reviews from the Press
Foraging the Mountain West (APG)
Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat
Review from American Survival Guide, Vol. 5, Issue 9, September 2016.
Foraging the Mountain West, by Thomas Elpel and Kris Reed, was a very daunting undertaking--and these two authors pulled it off very well. The vast area that is covered made this book a huge task. This had to be a labor of love, mixed with their knowledge of the terrain and botany. The result? We all win.
This 340-page, all-color book covers the Rocky Mountains west to the Sierra Nevada and north to the Cascades. Plus, it encompasses everything from the valley bottoms to the mountaintops.
Too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, too dry and too smoky all reflect the realities of the forager in this area. This field guide will get you through it all, because Elpel and Reed use a pattern-based approach to help you along the way.
For instance, there are about 55 species of gooseberries and currants in North America, so rather than featuring just one or two species as separate entries, the authors combine all gooseberries and currants (of the genus, Ribes) in one description, along with photos of multiple species to show the range of variation. This book empowers you to recognize other species of Ribes anywhere in North America.
The study of ethnobotany is a daunting task, but you have to start somewhere. Christopher Nyerges always suggests that you begin this study locally, ideally by going into the field somewhere near your home with an expert. You then continue your study with good books. A glance at the many ethnobotany books out there shows they are all organized differently.
Professional botanical books tend to be organized by plant families--the system used by all botanists. Some books are alphabetical, and some are organized into categories by environment (i.e., plants that grow in the desert, near water, etc.). Some are even organized by flower color (which tends to be a very poor method).
However, Elpel and Reed have organized their book by the following major categories: salads and greens, roots, fruits, seeds and nuts, mushrooms, harvesting and scavenging. The book caps off with a section on foraging as a lifestyle.
It is loaded with photos of excellent quality. Some could be a bit larger, but all are very good. Elpel and Reed cover and illustrate the details of how to prepare all the wild foods they mention and also address gleaning as a way to add to the larder. They deal with such things as the legalities of foraging, using road kill, dumpster-diving and other methods of procuring food. The chapter called "Hunting 101--Sticks, Rocks, and Spears" is an added bonus to many of us.
I cannot recommend this work highly enough. It is a masterpiece of information for anyone who is interested in any of the forms of foraging or is concerned about urban or wilderness survival needs to learn how to harvest wild plants. The what, where, when, why and how to gather the wild is waiting for you in this book.
Tom Elpel is also the author of Botany in a Day, which naturalist Christopher Nyerges has called "the quintessential book for learning botany." Elpel has also written Participating in Nature and other great books on the subject.
Foraging the Mountain West is a refreshing read--almost like reading a diary exploring the West and harvesting wild foods along with the authors. It's a rare glance at what one can achieve once armed with these skills and knowledge.
American Survival Guide
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