NATURE’S GARDEN by Samuel Thayer

by JF

This must be one of the best books on foraging ever produced. The author must truly be a rare eccentric, for he’s been foraging wild food since he was a young child and really knows his stuff. He tells of being a very young boy when he first started routinely gathering and eating wild carrots which, because of similarities to poison hemlock, are often avoided by older, more seasoned foragers. But this author simplifies the act of foraging. He takes the fear out of it, though he is careful to include the requisite words of caution–that, and the book is loaded with beautiful, high-quality photographs which differentiate between the edible plant being sought vs. a poisonous semi-lookalike.

        Thayer, in addition to being an expert forager, happens also to be a very stylistic and often humorous writer. He comes across as very personable.

        If there is any fault with this book it is that the plants discussed tend to be more concentrated on the eastern half of North America rather than in the West. But other than that, this is a near-perfect book on this topic, much better than any “field guide” which this reader has ever examined.

        As a bonus, the author’s introduction is a very compelling read which in large part deals with Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild and Sean Penn’s movie of the same name. Thayer excoriates Krakauer’s irresponsible conjectures-posing-as-facts which purport to explain the death of the young man Chris McCandless. Krakauer made the baseless speculation that McCandless had died of poisoning from a mistake while foraging; Thayer articulates most persuasively that McCandless died of starvation, and that McCandless was well along the path to starvation before he had ever left for his ill-fated trek to Alaska.

Rating: Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ
6/2011

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