The Forager Handbook Hardcover – 2 Jul 2009
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"Nature lovers and foodies alike will be overjoyed by this. Combining recipes and folklore, it's a great book for our time." (The Independent On Sunday)
"The definitive guide to foraging in the UK." (Wall Street Journal)
"A unique and authentic guide, assiduously researched, packed with information and enlivened with anecdotes." (Country Kitchen)
"The most up-to-date book on wild plants of Britain. Irving has produced a book that rivals Mabey’s Food For Free and personally I feel it surpasses it... I would rate The Forager Handbook as one of the best [of its kind] in publication." (eatweeds.co.uk)
Food For Free meets The Good Life in this practical handbook by the UK's number one foragerSee all Product description
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I should state that this is no field guide, nor do I think it should be considered a novices book. This is for those who really wish to become knowledgeable about the subject. When I first got the book and started flicking through it, it was obvious that a lot of effort and research had gone into it. Page after page of information on all the different plants, good descriptions, any potential hazards, similar species and ways to use them, it's all there. I saw some people saying they weren't too impressed by the black and white images but to be honest the photos are of such good quality (the vast majority of them anyway) that if you were to bring a bit of the plant in question indoors and hold it in front of the page, I have no doubt you would be able to make a positive identification, especially with the descriptions to help. All it takes is a bit of attention to detail, which let's be honest if you are foraging, you are meant to have anyway ;)
The book is divided up in to all the families of plants making it easy to navigate, here and there the author has included a few poisonous plants as learning about these is half the battle when it comes to not poisoning yourself and the way it is written feels like how somebody would talk, as though you have someone there mentoring you which I thought was nice.
In summary, a dozen or fewer average quality photos (take into account there must be a few hundred in the book) is all I can really pick out to fault. The whole book is really quality and I think if you are planning on foraging seriously, you won't be disappointed with it. £20 well spent! :)
I think it's essential for anyone interested in foraging and cooking - and I've very successfully been using it both for identifying plants and cooking (the Sea-buckthorn Sorbet/caramel is brilliant!). I have read a few books on wild food and this is by the far the most in depth and includes so many plants, grasses etc that no other single book I've come across have covered.
The forum's discussion if it is useful as a field guide is however justifiable, as it's not perhaps the easiest guide for a novice forager or someone with little knowledge about plants. Though it is the most detailed.
I did for some time think the black and white photographs was a design 'flaw' (or made by someone colourblind) , because it looks pretty, but is not super practical for initial identification. Having read Irving's comment 'that it's mostly leaves and they are all green anyway' I have to say I don't agree. Even if they are mostly green, tones and details do get lost in black and white photographs (I should know- I'm a photographer)- and because what you see in nature is in full colour the illustrations in 'The Forager Handbook' become a little abstract (though beautiful) at times. Also they are in very varying sizes/scales. I can only mention that one of the reviewers here who don't find this a problem is herbalist (surely someone with in depth knowledge in botany) to prove my point.
Unlike some reviewers however - I still find this books incredibly useful and inspiring, but I would recommend using a small book like Food for Free as cross reference (though it hardly covers all the same plants). I don't normally bring any books with me when out in the field, but pick plants I come across (and who look familiar or edible) and take them home for identification. At home you can also use the internet for easy cross referencing.
But some criticism aside I would not be without this amazing book! I'm not sure if I'd recommend it as a beginners book on foraging, but Irving did after all say he wanted to fill the gaps of the information that is already available. And in that he has totally succeeded.
If I had been able to look inside the book, or if the description had mentioned this, I certainly would not have ordered it; especially when there are so many other good, colourful books around.
Great depth and insight into the uk's wild food.
Information is discussed and offered with an obvious passion for the environment.
One of the selling points is that although the photos are black n white, they offer images of the plants etc when they are ready for picking - not just flowering and pretty like a lot of other books.
Also nice just to chill out and read.
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Plant descriptions are good it could use a bit more detail.Read more