Edible & Medicinal Plants

Reviews and sources for books on wild plants and mushrooms

Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West
By Michael Moore 200 pages Illustrated $13.95
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West

Order on-line

Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West
By Michael Moore 359 pages Illustrated $22.50
Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West

Order on-line
Mail order

Medicinal Plants of the Desert & Canyon West
By Michael Moore 184 pages Illustrated $13.95
Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West

Order on-line

One of the only herbalists that specializes in wild medicinals, Michael Moore speaks from his own experiences. All the plants described are plants that he knows and has used extensively. So, for example, when you go to clean Arrowleaf Balsam Root for a fresh tincture you learn that a wire brush is a real practical tool! His books are full of simple, practical, real life details, that make it alot easier for you.

Michael has a very direct to the point style that can leave you rolling on the floor at the same time as you're soaking in invaluable knowledge. If he thinks that the latest herb or seaweed miracle supplement is a piece of shit, he'll tell you. But he is also a very serious herbalist. So much so that his science can get overwhelming. We love his books and look to them continuously for medicinal plant information (such as how to feel better after too much food and drink the night before!)

Wild Edible Plants of Western North America
By Donald Kirk 320 pages Illustrated $8.95
Wild Edible Plants of Western North America
There really is no one great guide to wild edibles. This one covers the most plants, and does it decently well. I've always appreciated this book because I know that if I can't find it in here, it probably isn't edible. Its obvious weak points are that it doesn't have color pictures (which makes quick ID harder), its limited to western North America (though many plants are found out east) and it really only gives you superficial info on how to prepare the plants (which is the other half of the ball-game, imagine that you knew that potatos were edible...but had no idea that its better to cook them for 40 minutes first. You would have a much different opinion on the edibility of potatos). Wild edibles are a huge field of information, and unfortunately most authors just repeat what they read in some-one elses book (perhaps after trying it once or twice). Kirk's guide at least covers enough plants that you are sure to find dozens in your neck of the woods to start playing with.
For more wildfoods resources
check out Wildfood Adventures
Order on-line

Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop
By Euell Gibbons 332 pages Illustrated $20
Stalking the Blue-eyed Scallop
Euell Gibbons is much more famous for Stalking the Wild Asparagus, but we found this to be an exceptionally good guide to seaside suppers. Not only does he cover all of the classic oysters, clams, crabs and such, but he also tells you about the many overlooked goodies that are often much more plentiful (take for instance goose barnacles...probably never thought of eating these, but they taste just like lobster - in fact, they're related, and they never run away or try to pinch you). Euell is also a gourmet cook, and though he does overdue the butter, he will teach you all the ins and outs to proper preparation and cooking. Euell also gives you perls of wisdom on how to improvise all kinds of useful tools and fishing gear, on the spot.
Order on-line

All That the Rain Promises, and More...
A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms
By David Arora 262 pages Zillions of photos $17.95
All That the Rain Promises and More
If you are the least bit into mushroom harvesting, get this book. If you've never been interested in mushrooms, you soon will be. David has taken a subject that has always been treated blandly and academically and made it a hell of alot of fun! This book is really user friendly, full of four color photos of all the mushrooms that are really good to eat or poisonous, with very easy keys to positively identifying them. He also tells you which mushrooms are 'intelligence proof' and which ones are 'better punted than hunted'. There are pictures of people having a great time harvesting wild mushrooms, cooking them up, wearing them as hats, tripping over barbed-wire with armloads of 'em... He captures the culture, the reasons people love to chase after these fleshy fungi. The result has been an exponential increase in hunting and enjoying wild mushrooms. There may be a more appropriate guide to mushrooms of eastern North America, but this book is used in countries throughout the world (yes, you can find chanterelles in Asia, boletes in Africa). My favorite field guide, on any subject.

Order on-line

Botany In A Day
Thomas J. Elpel's Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families
By Thomas J. Elpel 201 pages Illustrated $22.50
Botany in a Day
Botany in a Day will teach you to look for the patterns of the plant world. Instead of learning that "this herb is good for insect bites". You learn that plants with 'tannin' in them are good for bites, and that the plants in these eight families all have tannin, and you can identify these by the purple and pink polka dotted leaves...It is a very logical and intuitive way to understand the big pictures rather than just trying to memorize every plant and every use. This book really tied together many of the zillion pieces of plant information I have floating around in my memory. It will enhance your learning and understanding of herbalism, wild edibles and plants in general.

Order on-line

It Will Live Forever
Traditional Yosemite Indian Acorn Preparation
By Bev Ortiz 148 pages Photos $12.95
It Will Live Forever
Its easy to make acorn that you can eat a bite or two of, but to make acorn that you can eat a bowl of and love it - it has to be done right (You can live off of good acorn, but so-so acorn is painful). I've read and tried alot of methods in your run of the mill wild edibles books, and they work...for a bite or two. This is the only book I know of that has the key details for making acorn that you can really eat (this doesn't necessarily apply to you folks east of the Rockies who have Acorns that contain so little tannin and bitter that you can eat them right off the tree). It walks you through the process along with the Yosemite Miwok woman who is showing the author. Unfortunately, the how-to information is embedded in alot of extraneous adulation of this Miwok elder. The methods and tools are very traditional, so if you're not interested in doing it the old way, you'll need to improvise.

Order on-line     Mail order

Home Braintan Archery Survival Plants Basketry Crafts Native Arts Good reads

Email Us!

Email: backcountry@braintan.com
URL: http://www.braintan.com/backcountrybooks/index.html