Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat by Ellen Zachos (Storey Publishing, 2013)

Hungry? Look no farther than your own backyard.

BR BackyardForaging

In Backyard Foraging, New Hampshire native Ellen Zachos looks at weeds, wild plants, and ornamentals and lets you know which ones are edible and how to harvest and prepare them. She also loads the book with safety information—eating from the garden or the wild may be hazardous to your health unless you know what you are doing and take care.

Zachos explores not just familiar edibles like elderberry, dandelion, mulberry, prickly pear, and mushrooms but also more unusual fare such as dahlias, cannas, acorns, redbud, hosta, lilac, magnolia, sedum, and spruce. In the plant guide, which makes up the bulk of the book, she discusses plants to harvest for their greens (invasive Japanese knotweed, for example); edible flowers and fruits; nuts and seeds; roots, tubers, and rhizomes; and plants with many harvestable parts. I appreciate the chapter on growing mushrooms and the guidance for freezing and dehydrating the harvest, as well as how to make wine, jelly, and baked goods.

Besides the fascinating content, what makes this book a good read is Zachos’s breezy yet authoritative style. Even if you decline to eat spruce tips or harvest milkweed from a ditch, reading Backyard Foraging will give you a fresh take on your surroundings.

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