Book Review: Food You Can Forage, by Tiffany Francis

N.b. This review was originally published in New Nature Magazine (June 2018 issue).

Have you ever wondered what sweet cicely or bog myrtle taste like? If so then this book could be one for you. Beautifully illustrated and helpfully structured by habitat Food You Can Forage would sit well on the bookshelf or coffee table of any curious aspiring forager. I have followed Tiffany’s writing for some time, through her blog and was therefore excited to see the results of her first book project with the team at Bloomsbury. If you are looking for a detailed, comprehensive review or analysis of the hundreds of edible plants you can forage then you may wish to refer to some of the other foraging books available, as detailed taxonomy isn’t the aim here, but this book is certainly a brilliant introduction to inspire anyone, young or old, country or town dweller to get out there and start learning about foraging. Accessibility is the key to the book and making the activity engaging and intriguing was a key aim which I think has been achieved.

Tiffany makes it clear that foraging is an activity that the entire family can get involved in. It’s part of a growing selection of books that encourage people to get out there and look at the natural world, slowly and steadily learning more about it and hopefully connecting more with it, leading them to ultimately want to protect it. With this in mind, one of the most successful parts of the book for me is the inclusion of introductions
to each section, from meadows to heathland and coast to woodland. Within these sections Tiffany subtly introduces concepts such as conservation grazing and
outlines the threats of biodiversity loss without seeming like she is preaching. She also informs readers of campaigns, such as the ‘two minute beach clean’ and literary works that have inspired her such as the novels of Herman Melville.

Within the description of each plant in the book there are interesting pieces of information on their history or literary links as well as a handy guide to when something might be available to forage, and at the end of the book a useful ‘foraging calendar’ is included. I can see this book would work well being carried around the field and accompanying families on holiday, the pages gradually getting grubbier and grubbier as thumbs work their way through the book in search of a particular plant. Helpfully, Tiffany also includes a number of recipes using foraged ingredients, such as ‘gorse kick mead’, ‘blackberry and basil syrup’ and ‘wild garlic and cheese scones’. Although suggestions are made throughout the book as to what the reader might be able to do with the plants they forage, this section I would say is key and perhaps even more recipes could have been included.

This book is colourful, inspiring and accessible and Tiffany’s keen interest and knowledge in the subject of foraging comes through strongly. The book is published by Bloomsbury Wildlife and available in paperback format for £16.99.

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