Re:Stalking the Wild Asparagus

If you’re interested in foraging wild foods, there are good resources on the web, but a library copy of Stalking the Wild Asparagus, by Euell Gibbons has its own charm.   The title essay tells how as a youth he went looking for something, anything for his family to eat and found armloads of wild asparagus. There’s a lovely passage describing how once he recognized it, he saw that it had been everywhere, unseen and overlooked, but everywhere.

I also liked the chapter about Wild Honey. His grandfather was a good bee catcher. Gibbons writes of the one time he managed to duplicate his grandfather’s success. It sounds like a lot of patient work to track bees to their hive. He put out a honeycomb soaked in sugar syrup and watched the bees. He even marked one. When he thought he had the direction, he picked up the bait and moved. Repeat until the bees change direction, then find the tree. It sounds simple, but so do a lot of difficult things.

Most chapters discuss one plant at a time. In general, the anecdotes are fun, but too few of the plants have pictures. The writing style is discursive, even repetitive. It gets tiring that each essay ends with an exhortation to go foraging. The book offers a few medicinal remedies, with abundant warnings. Most of the recipes are pretty much the same: boil the tough greens and sauté the tender ones. Serve with butter or bacon.  Maybe both.

The chapter about forcing edible roots is fascinating. I am intrigued by the prospect of growing food in your basement during the winter, especially when those expense pale white heads of witloof in the market are just forced chicory roots.  Still, I wasn’t sure I would go to the trouble, until I saw a very tempting seed packets. I’m going for it.  I’m planting witloof.