10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2013
I first bought Food for Free as a paperback about forty years ago. At that time it was to help distract our kids on walks. (And incidentally, it remains brilliant for that. Except that the "kids" in question are now our grandchiildren!) It's clear, concise and not at all stuffy or condescending--so it's perfect for somebody who's thinking of, or just beginning, foraging. Also, it's clearly based on UK flora and fungi, so it's ideally suited for the UK forager.
This time round I bought the Kindle edition. (I still have the dog-eared original, though!) This makes it even more useful, because it's completely searchable. So, for example, if you find something with "arrow-shaped leaves", it's easier to work out whether it's sorrel, or bindweed.
If there was a Desert Island Books show, like Desert Island Discs, this would definitely be a book I'd want with me.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2013
Review by my girlfriend since it's her book.
This book was a Christmas gift, and I'm really pleased with it.
First thoughts: The book is beautiful Heavy, glossy and sturdy, printed and bound to a high quality. The hard cover is lovely to look at, with the text stamped into the cover rather than merely printed. The book look impressive and is an attractive addition to my bookshelf.
Next thoughts: The interior is lovely, as well. Every food item described is illustrated with high quality, glossy photos that display the plant in its natural setting, showing leaves, fruit/flowers and stem clearly. It would be very difficult to misidentify anything with this book.
More detailed thoughts: The descriptions given for different plants are very thorough, and include smell for fragrant plants as well as appearance. The mushroom section is fantastic for newbies to mushroom foraging - the safest and most difficult to misidentify mushroom varieties are offered, and in the few cases where there are similar poisonous varieties, these are described and illustrated just as clearly, with large poison symbols to make it very clear what to avoid. There is also a very nicely arranged index at the back, where all the plants in the book are illustrated with the usual, old-fashioned colour sketches. This is great, as if you come across a plant you don't know, you can skip to the index, find a similar-looking sketch and it will refer you to the main page, where you can compare the plant to the detailed photos and descriptions more thoroughly. A very clever and very efficient way of arranging things.
I have only two criticisms.
One: This book is far too large and heavy to take out when foraging. It is such a thorough and clear book I absolutely would want the information it contains with me when foraging, but it is a little dense to keep pulling out of a backpack, supporting against a rock, flipping open, etc.
Two: Almost none of the plants have a time-of-year with them. Some of them do, but in other cases I'm left with no idea what sort of time of year I can expect to find a given plant at its best. It'd be very handy to have that.
A really great book. Ideal for beginner foragers, especially people who are nervous about picking mushrooms but want to try it. Very informative, well presented and laid out in an intuitive, sensible and useful manner.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2012
Perfect for beginner or advanced. Big glossy pictures and everything you need to know. If you're learning from home there is nothing better. If you want to learn while outdoors, the food for free pocket version by collins gem is ideal. With both you have everything you need.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Yip, I still have my original paperback version of this (but will give that away to a friend now I have treated myself to this updated, hard-backed, better illustrated version) and it really is an invaluable source of trusted information if you like to forage in the wild and not poison yourself!
This book is beautiful. Beautifully presented, high quality production - a hard-backed version of a classic title.
Super-sized glossy pictures that make what you are foraging easy to identify and also comes with plenty of superb recipes for things to do with your find.
I love this book, so I've bought it twice over the years.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND (will be good in this downturn we are having in the UK .... save yourself some money, pick your own in the wild and have fun whilst you are doing it and get exercise and fresh air)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2012
I was very pleased when this book arrived, as it has high quality binding and colour photographs. It was bought as a gift and is definitely the sort of present anyone who loves walking in the countryside and/or cooking would enjoy reading. There is a pocket sized version which would be much better if you need to refer to it during a ramble, but the disadvantage of the pocket sized version is the photographs are obviously a lot smaller and so indentifying plants en route is likely to be more difficult.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2012
I am reading and enjoying and learning. It is so good to have recipes included. I am now passing this review over to my husband.
I found the format excellent: the photographs are large, permitting of easy recognition; the text is large font, permitting of easy reading if, like me, your eyesight is none too good. An excellent book, worth the price.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2013
As someone who loves to forage while out for a walk with the dog, this is a treasure of a book. You can't carry it with you, but lovely to put your feet up, find a new plant to look for, and then go look for it. Lovely photos too.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
If you like going on nature walks and/or you want to find out about the free food & medicine surrounding you this is a great resource.
Lots of photos and it explains where to find these plants and lots more.
Richard Mabey is the king of food for free authoring.
We have several of his books and have used them to try out what the hedgerow has to offer. We own a small holding and knew that most of what nature produces free every year was going to waste and with rising food prices needed education on how to use what's there more effectively.
This book backs up his other writings and includes lots of extra information on collection, identification and cooking. It's hard to believe that it is possible to feed yourself year round in the UK without the need for supermarkets. We are not going to go that far but using Richard's books have saved lots of money and are probably healthier for it.. We use stinging nettles, Alexanders, Blackberries, Field mushrooms, nuts and wild fruit in our diet now on a regular basis. There is plenty more out there and this book is extending our knowledge much more and there was a few other things we will be trying.
Overall an excellently written and illustrated book.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Foraging is cool again. Should you lash out on the new, glossy, illustrated version, or be frugal and "green", buying a cheap second-hand copy of the original book? Well, Richard Mabey's prose is as magical and seductive as ever; it was the power of his writing which inspired readers to get out there and forage for wild stuff in the 70s. But, that aside, the book was pretty dreary. Today we expect, as standard, colour photography of the highest quality and a well-designed layout. And then again, with the old version, you needed another book to make sure you'd identified your stuff correctly. Because the novice forager really must understand that not everything in nature's garden is rosey, and all is definitely NOT for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.
Two friends of someone I know died as a result of making "wild celery" soup (don't, wild celery is highly toxic and closely related to hemlock). Every year there are a cluster of unfortunate incidents involving wild "mushrooms" - fungi are sneaky and deceptive and you can apparently recover from a stomach upset only to have your liver pack up days later! In countries where fungi are routinely foraged for they still have regular accidental poisonings. Anyone tempted to sneer at the emphasis on safe identification should remember this.
There is nothing new about foraging for food, of course. For our ancestors it was often the alternative to going hungry. Going even further back, it was the only source of food - at all. The difference today is that what was once a regular skill, handed down from generation to generation, has become the hobby of people spoiled by, and bored with, an abundance of safe, mass-produced foods. Oh, and the fact that our hunter-gatherer forebears got most of their calories from meat and fish; not something modern-day foraging emphasises!
As hunter-gatherers, these islands supported perhaps 100,000 people tops. Our ancestors got heavily into farming, and over the centuries gave up eating wild food as soon as they could. They preferred cultivated vegetables, farmed meat and nice white bread too, when they could get it. To palates used to supermarket fare, wild food is extremely strongly flavoured. It's no accident that poncy restaurants tend to keep the foraged goodies to a garnish or flavouring, not a main component. Don't expect to like the taste of everything in the book; just becuase you CAN eat something, doesn't mean you MUST. However the recipes have been selected to use wild foods at their best, and the new edition has been revised to include some challenging and tempting new recipes.
So, all in all, the new edition is well worth the extra money. Enjoy using it but remember, "free" means "no money"; and if you drive for miles into the countryside to find your "free" food it'll cost you, and the planet, more than you think. We are lucky enough to be able to spend hours searching out something tasty, rather than be forced to do it to keep the wolf from the door. Best not to go on about how "green" you're being to your mates unless you've walked or cycled in your search!