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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase


Knowledgebase record #15


The Front Yard Forager by Melany Vorass Herrera, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2014-03-12

Front Yard Forager book jacketMelany Vorass Herrera is an enthusiastic and experienced forager who lives in Seattle. In "The Front Yard Forager" she identifies 30 common weeds found in North American cities that she recommends we add to our regular diet. I found her presentations, including recipes, beguiling--especially as my own garden is filled with several of her selections that until now I've tossed into yard waste.

Before heading to the garden or the vacant lot, however, the author has several cautionary topics to consider to keep you--the foraging consumer--safe and to ensure your collecting doesn't disrupt the ecology or social harmony of the neighborhood. Further caveats fill each plant entry, including "Poisonous Look-Alikes" and "Who Should Avoid It" warnings.

While most of the selections, such as dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), have general consensus in the literature as safe to eat, some of Vorass Herrera's other choices are less certain. This makes as a good companion book the new edition of "The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms" by two University of Victoria authors, Nancy J. Turner and Patrick von Aderkas.

The wild sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius) illustrates the value of consulting at least these two sources before consuming any wild plant. Vorass Herrera recommends it when identification is certain and when eaten only in moderation. Turner and von Aderkas state that "all species of Lathyrus should be regarded with caution. However, a strong case is made for the edible qualities of wild sweet pea (L. latifolius) by wild food expert John Kallas." A discussion of the arguments by Kallas follows, leaving you--the now well-informed forager--with three distinct opinions on the safety of putting this plant on your dinner table.

The importance of this is best summed up by Vorass Herrera: "The bottom line? A good forager needs to be willing to spend a little time digging for accurate information." Excerpted from the Winter 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.


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