OCTOBER 24, 2018

Cookbook Review: Midwest Foraging

A great picture of author Lisa M. Rose – herbalist, forager, urban farmer, and writer – enthusiastically signing one of her books with the inscription “Eat Well, Eat Wild!” really seems to capture the next progression in the local food movement.

Following contemporary trends in culinary history, it’s always fascinating to consider what, if anything, is actually new, what is old, or what is merely a re-presentation of both. This contemporary trend toward foraging is especially interesting because, when we think about it, there really is no more ancient means of feeding ourselves than heading out into the forest and finding “wild and flavorful edibles.”

As we read through Midwest Foraging(Timber Press, 2015), a book that Rose has herself called “part field guide, part culinary treatise and part memoir,” it’s hard not to in some long lost way make these connections ourselves and immediately identify with the simple art of using the likes of acorns, fiddleheads, ox-eye daisies, or the unique paw-paw, among a hundred others, for raw or supplemental ingredients.

 

Ox-eye daisies can be used in a variety of ways, including herbal teas.

 

Each edible is introduced to us first by describing identification techniques, then we are told how and when to gather them and finally how to prepare them. Midwest Forage becomes is a little like reading a lost but common culinary archive, enthusiastically inspiring us to re-enter a natural resource that is still there if we choose and are willing to steward.

The section on violets is a great example. Rose writes in her introduction that, “Violet leaves have a mild, bright, slightly lemon flavor and are an easily foraged gateway food to get friends and family interested in ‘eating weeds.’ Its flowers are pretty and delicious too.” A vivid photograph taken by the author of freshly foraged violet flowers in a bowl ready to be added to salad is a tempting visual. “Violet leaves are high in vitamin C and are delicious as a raw vegetable. Add them to salad or as a supplement along with chickweed to make a ‘foraged green smoothie blend.’”

The idea of ‘gateway’ in foraging is key as the book also serves as a guide to another important trend in culture, as a means for “Cultivating a Sense of Place.” She hopes that we are seeing the bigger picture as we become more active agents in finding our place in the natural world. “So many of us are seeking a connection to the land and to each other…That need for escape into the wild is very real: we desire space and clarity. This is one reason foraging is gaining in popularity.”