A couple of years ago, the Rocky Mountain Land Series was lucky enough to host Gary Lincoff for his authoritative (and extremely fun) book, The Complete Mushroom Hunter. In his latest book, The Joy of Foraging, Lincoff takes on the entire plant kingdom. This is a wonderfully illustrated handbook, and Gary’s enthusiasm is certainly infectious. He’ll have you searching out nuts, wild fruits, edible greens — and even seaweeds. Along the way, you’ll learn much more about the place where you live.
That’s exactly what happened to John Lewis-Stempel. Looking around his English farm he saw a trout flash in the brook, mushrooms sprinkled across his fields, and a squirrel eating hazelnuts. That led him to think, wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could live on what nature provides for free? The result is one of the most unusual and well-written books we’ve read in quite sometime: The Wild Life: A Year of Living on Wild Food (also pictured above).
Here’s John Lewis-Stempel on the humble hazelnut: ” There is no sensible reason for me to be out at eleven at night, shining a torch up into the leaves and incipient catkins, gathering hazelnuts. Whatever is left on these few last trees will remain till first light, when I will have to come back anyway with a shepherd’s crook to pull down the high branches, an exercise impossible to combine with torch-holding. I am picking solely to do something to satisfy a squirrel-like urge to store up for the oncoming winter….
Hazelnuts are more amenable to the jaw when roasted, when they become starchy, like semolina. Roasted hazelnuts can also be pressed for oil. The process is laborious and the amount of pale amber oil that can be obtained from a pound of nuts is to be measured in parts of a teaspoon. Hazelnut oil is precious. Outside of duck fat, it is the only cooking oil I can obtain from the land.”
Here’s two more books on the art of feeding free!
Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, Langdon Cook’s foraging tale from the Pacific Northwest, and A Feast of Weeds: A Literary Guide to Foraging and Cooking Wild Edible Plants by Luigi Ballerini.
As for urban foraging, we’ve been really inspired by the work of this group:
The London Orchard Project plants new community orchards, rejuvenates neglected ones, and (in one of their strokes of sheer genius), they map existing London fruit trees, all ripe for foraging:
For more on foraging in the wild, here’s one of our all-time favorite past posts: