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Food for Free Paperback – 1 Oct 2001

424 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Collins; New edition edition (1 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002201593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002201599
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 18.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (424 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Mabey is a naturalist and award-winning author and journalist. He won wide acclaim on the publication of the original Food for Free in 1972 - which has never been out of print since - and again with the publication of the colour edition in 1989. Among his many other acclaimed publications are Gilbert White (Whitbread Biography of the Year) and the ground-breaking bestseller Flora Britannica, which won the British Book Awards' Illustrated Book of the Year and the Botanical Society of the British Isles' President's Award and was runner-up for the BP Natural World Book Prize. He collaborated with Mark Cocker on Birds Britannica, and his book Nature Cure, described as 'a brilliant, candid and heartfelt memoir', was shortlisted for four prestigious prizes: the Whitbread Biography, the J.R. Ackerley for autobiography, Mind (for its investigation into depression) and the Ondaatje for the evocation of the spirit of place. He is an active member of national and local conservation groups and lives in Norfolk.

Product Description


‘Thirty years after its initial publication, the forager's bible continues to inspire and enthral.’
Scottish Field

‘Still a classic’
The Financial Times

‘Armed with this guide, this month you could be sampling the simple pleasures of eating a fleshy Hottentot fig straight from a Devon clifftop, making elderflower fritters gathered from the hedgerows, or frying fairy-ring champignons picked off your lawn. With its charming painted illustrations, it is a book to savour in itself.’
Devon Life

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Illustrated throughout with stunning colour photographs this fully-revised edition of a Collins bestseller explains the best ways to make use of the foods we can find in the wild.

'Food for Free' by Richard Mabey was first published in 1972, since then it has been reprinted 11 times. An all-colour, revised version produced in 1989 has sold over 30,000 copies in the trade. A guide to over 200 types of food that can be gathered in the wild in Britain, 'Food for Free' explores the history and folklore of the foods as well as explaining how we identify them and the best ways to cook and eat them.

The new edition will bring the subject right up to date. Organized by season rather than food type 'Food for Free' will take us through the year. Richard Mabey’s fully-revised text will be accompanied by stunning photographs, new recipes and a wealth of practical information on collecting, cooking and preparing.

Beautifully illustrated, beautifully written and produced in a new, larger format 'Food for Free' is designed to inspire us to take more notice of what is around us, how we can make use of it and how we can conserve it for future generations.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

150 of 153 people found the following review helpful By sharalou on 10 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
I got this book from my local library but loved it so much that I am going to get my own copy for future reference. After reading this book I went out for a walk and picked some blackberries, elderberries & sloes, which were growing in abundance some 10 minutes from my house! This book opened my eyes to stuff that I usually overlook in the hedgerows and provided me with some useful information about the type of plants, fruits and fungi that are edible (and perhaps not always well known), with recipe ideas too. It encouraged me to venture out into the fresh air and walk in local woodland, along river banks and fields etc. I even found some of the highly recommended Parasol mushrooms! Wonderful book and really, really useful. Worth every penny.
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 1 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a neat little reference manual...but it does depend heavily on having done alot of independent research (to the point where you wonder why someone who had done the necessary research would need this pocket guide).

My case in point is that I received this pocket guide and immediately went to work in the woods nearby trying to identify local wild herbs/plants that were edible.

I came across what I had previously thought of as an innocuous, useless weed - it seemed to correspond with 'Sweet Cicely' in the book..picture looked good, tied in with the description...looked like I had found easily a common plant that I could make use of.

Now, as stated, I'm not an expert so I went on to double-check (thankfully) and it seems like this plant is easily confused with hemlock (from what I can gather you can tell hemlock from the red speckles on the stalks).

I'd really like to regain confidence in this little pocket manual...please tell me if I'm mistaken about the whole hemlock thing.

I think I will be sticking with dandelion recipes until I get another reference manual which includes 'false friend' warnings about plants & fungi that need to be identified and avoided despite seeming similar to those listed.
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378 of 391 people found the following review helpful By Lifthrasir on 5 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a 2004 version and worthy addition to the very popular and pocket-sized Collins Gem series. ISBN 0-00-718303-8. Food For Free - A Fantastic Feast of Plants and Folklore.
The book starts with an introduction by the author Richard Mabey. It then has short sections titled 'Roots', 'Green Vegetables', 'Herbs', 'Spices', 'Flowers', 'Fruits', 'Making Jellies and Jams' and 'Nuts'. They include general advice, observations and uses. The main section of the book is given over to identification, with at least two pages per entry. An interesting section follows titled ’Picking Rules’ which gives advice on how to pick correctly how to stay safe. The last section before the main body of the book is a summary calendar which groups the picking times for entries into a colour-coded calendar - very useful as a quick reference.
Every entry is accompanied with a drawing. Most of the drawings are excellent, but one or two are a little small and thus less detailed. Fortunately, almost every entry also has a photograph. The combination of colour drawings and colour photographs is what makes this little pocket book a true 'gem'. If the drawing is a little weak, the photo will be excellent and vice-versa. Almost fool proof.
Each entry starts with the common English name (Latin is in small type at the top of the page)a colour illustration and description. Taking Beech (at random), it says: 'Widespread and common throughout the British Isles, especially on chalky soils. A stately deciduous tree, with smooth, grey bark, to 40m (130ft). Leaves: bright green, alternate, oval. Flowers: male drooping, stalked heads; female in pairs. Fruit: four inside a prickly brown husk, Sept-Oct.
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155 of 161 people found the following review helpful By J. Chippindale TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Aug. 2007
Format: Paperback
Richard Mabey is the author of several books on flora and fauna so he is well qualified to write a book such as this. Over one hundred edible plants are featured together with recipes and other culinary information. There is also information on how to pick and when to pick and the regulations on picking which are very important. As I come from farming stock I have to say that food for free does not mean going into a field and digging up a few potato plants or for that matter cabbages.

There are plenty of hedgerow plants available for free, if you are prepared to look for them and suffer the odd few scratches. There is nothing better than a bowl of freshly picked blackberries or raspberries, if you can get them home before they are all eaten.

Plants that are edible are fully illustrated and described and the recipes are both old and new. Other fascinating information is how the plants have been used through the ages. An ideal book for all those who are nature lovers and like the idea of something for nothing. I think the last part covers 99.9% of the population.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Devman on 24 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A useful book but the pictures and descriptions in these books never go far enough imho

I am not so interested in recipes for these plants, I could get another book to tell me all about the culinary delights of preparing one wild food or another, and yet the people that write these books appear to want to sidetrack the reader into preparing plants, rather than identifying them properly in the first place.

If I wanted a picture of what a plant looked like, I could just as easily compile my own book, by going on the net, typing in the plant name and print out the resulting picture.

What I do want and was expecting (foolishly) from this book, was a good description of how to identify each plant, and which lookalikes I should be aware of, and not an extremely brief description of the plant.

An example from the book.
Shady waste places, on roadsides and under hedges. Widespread throughout Europe. A hairless perennial forming large patches 30– 100 cm (12– 40 in) high. Leaves: finely toothed in groups of three at the end of the leaf stems. Flowers: white umbels on a creeping, hairless stem. June– Aug.
Mabey, Richard (2012-04-12). Food For Free (Collins Gem) (Kindle Locations 674-676). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.

This is for ground elder, a plant that has many lookalikes some that are not good for you at all, but this book gives no insight into what differences to look for.
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