18 April 2013
For those that are interested in foraging, especially, but certainly not only, if you live in a town or city, Rebecca offers a thoroughly charming and immensely enjoyable guide to the urban jungle's unique foraging opportunities. Written with a perfect balance between the light hearted, deeply serious, playful, silly and profound, Rebecca clearly demonstrates at every turn how foraging for wild plants, in any situation, is about developing deep and meaningful connection, not only with the plants themselves, but also in terms of the collective adventure she so wonderfully describes of new friends made, insights gained, and delightfully non-judgemental reflections shared. While not a field guide (there are enough of them - mostly written by men), it is certainly a guide to the broader and important field of activity that is the playful and awareness expanding learning encounters we can all have with plants, especially if we remain honest, open, curious and full of child-like wonder.
Although based in the US city of Portland Oregon, the plants, perspectives, attitudes and ideas explored in the book are entirely relevant to the UK situation. Indeed, even on the very rare occasion when she writes about a plant not found growing wild or feral in the UK, the mention either serves to draw out the fun and implications of some adventure or comes married to an interesting fact, such as that the fermented juice of Pokeweed berries (an ornamental plant in the uk) was used to write the US constitution.
Without interrupting either the book's general narrative flow or the spirit of creativity and joyful discovery that permeates throughout, she draws attention to fundamental topics of importance such as issues concerning pollution in the urban and not so urban environment, as well as an unpretentious, practical and experiential exploration of what it means to know a plant. Indeed, this book, along with a number of others written by female authors, such as Ffyona Campbell's recent and delightful The Hunter -Gatherer Way, provide a more intuitive, insightful, and holistic perspective on wild foods and foraging; a perspective not against but in compliment to the more rationalist, objectifying and categorizational thrust of so many books written by men on this subject. Indeed, it pays subtle homage to a way of relating to the world more akin to both the Native American tradition and that of more Earth-based tribal cultures around the world both past and present.
Above all else, with wit and wisdom, the book clearly demonstrates that the magic of discovery, of meaning, knowledge and insights uncovered in the medicinal plants and wild foods realm, need not be the preserve of so-called experts, but that we all have a unique and valid understanding and perspective in our relationship to the natural world. Rebecca shares hers, in the belief, I am sure, that we will also feel inspired to explore our unique yet collective understanding and relationship to plants, and the wild world more generally, in our own specific and local situation.