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143 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent source of reference - Highly recommended
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...
Published on 10 Aug 2005 by sharalou

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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flying in the face of other reviews
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...
Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer


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143 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent source of reference - Highly recommended, 10 Aug 2005
This review is from: Food for Free (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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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flying in the face of other reviews, 1 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Food For Free (Collins Gem) (Paperback)
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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368 of 380 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent pocket sized guide, 5 Feb 2006
This review is from: Food For Free (Collins Gem) (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. When ripe this opens into four lobes, this liberating the brown, three-sided nuts.' The illustration depicts a leaf, spring twig with unopened buds, an opening husk revealing nut inside and bare nut. The article continues with headings; Harvest/Pick, Uses, Beech Nut, Beech Nut Oil, Beech Leaf Noyau. The photo at the end of the entry is a good close-up of a twig with a cluster of husks. (I didn’t know, for example, that ‘fresh from the tree Beech leaves are a fine salad vegetable, as sweet as a mild cabbage though much softer in texture’.)
The book, in line with its title, covers Plants and Trees, Fungi, Seaweeds and Shellfish. There is a glossary at the end and a page devoted to further reading. There is a List of Recipes and finally an index of entries in common English or Latin.
There aren't that many books devoted to 'British' wild foods so to find one which lists over 100 edible plants, berries, mushrooms, seaweed and shellfish is most welcome. Given the true pocket size measurements of the Collins Gem series of books, the price of a fiver (£4-99) and the quality of each entry, this is as good as it gets. Obviously not a benchmark reference work or field-guide, but at least this fits in the pocket - which is the main purpose of such books, isn't it? Five stars!
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150 of 156 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Handy Pocket Volume, 13 Aug 2007
By 
J. Chippindale (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Food For Free (Collins Gem) (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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131 of 139 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars FOOD FOR FREE BY RICHARD MABEY, 15 Sep 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Food for Free (Paperback)
A delightful, colourful book that is full of the countryside with amazing recipes of the wild flowers and weeds that have been photographed and inset on every page. He has created a new space for the English seasonal climate and the accompanying display of wild, ornate colourful flowers that have all got there culinary uses, some known like chicory others not so well known like Bladder Wrack Popweed. There are 21 daring recipes for you to try each containing somekind of wild flower or herb. The overall review of this book is that if you are in love with the countryside you will definetely find this book very interesting.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nature's Larder, 5 Aug 2011
This review is from: Food For Free (Collins Gem) (Paperback)
As ever with Collins Gems' guides the information contained is easily referenced,concisely put,has clear photograph's to make sure you dont get yourself into trouble by picking the wrong foods and makes a good entertaining and informative read for every forager,wether experienced or not.
All stars would have been given but for the one factor of the print being somewhat small for my failing eyes,but that is a 'personal thing'.
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80 of 88 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excites the interest but not actually that practical, 26 Oct 2005
By 
J. Brand "jbrand" (Somewhere else) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Food for Free (Paperback)
This is an excellent book but in the wrong package. Richard Mabey does a very good job of giving a seasonal guide to what's out there that you can have for free and does a respectable job of telling you how to use it. It falls short in two respects;

First it is not a comprehensive guide to any particular food source so while he may tell you how to cook ceps and morels and gives a reasonable guide to identifying it without this being a comprehensive guide to fungi you will never be entirely certain that what you have is a cep or a morel. To some extent that is true for everything he shows whether its fungi, nuts or fruit.

The second point is more significant for a book on foraging and is that this edition is simply too big to take into the field. In some ways this isn't a significant problem as because the book isn't comprehensive it wouldn't be the choice to take into the field with you.

This book falls somewhere between the coffee table forager's manual and Delia goes wild. Both of which might sound like criticisms but for someone who hasn't foraged wild food previously both of those would be the ideal starting point. If that's you then buy this book and read it but leave it at home when you go out and get a good field guide to take with you.

Note - since writing that review I have realised that this is available in several editions. Some of the other editions are small enough to use as a field guide.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent little book, 18 July 2008
This review is from: Food For Free (Collins Gem) (Paperback)
This little gem of a book should be in every backpackers back pocket. Concise, focused and descriptive you'll have no trouble identifying the plants and shellfish. There has been some comments about lack of information on animals to eat, this is probably because rabbits, pheasants and such are classed as game and will belong to the landowner. Whilst it's ok to pick a few plants, mushrooms and shellfish it will probably be frowned on if you start blasting away at the countryside or setting traps!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Free Food ?, 24 July 2013
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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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic free food, 27 May 2009
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This review is from: Food For Free (Collins Gem) (Paperback)
This book really is a gem. Full of free hedge row foods with sections on how to use / cook them for the best effect. Each plant has a nice picture and guide to what to look for. This said, it does miss some obvious edible plants which I would have thought people would want to know about and thus the 4 star rating.
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Food For Free (Collins Gem)
Food For Free (Collins Gem) by Richard Mabey (Paperback - 1 Aug 2012)
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