Several years ago, a friend gave me the book Dandelion Hunter by Rebecca Lerner (2013), which promptly got put on a shelf with other plant books and forgotten. Then a few weeks ago a friend called and told me she was reading a book that made her keep thinking of me, and it was this one. I promptly went and found where I had put it 3 years ago and read it. It was a terrific read and very much worth having unearthed it.
“When it was time to eat, we set the food down on a long, low coffee table…It was an impressive display: rose hips sauce, roasted cattail, nettle, mushrooms, wapato, venison, scones, and even wild beer. Ariel…had infused this batch with yarrow and leaves from a juniper tree.”
This is a description of a Thanksgiving dinner the author held with friends at the end of her second challenge to eat only foods foraged in and around Portland, Oregon. Her original challenge, with which she begins the book, had lasted barely five days, at the end of which she was weak from lack of food. Her first attempt taught her a lot about what could or could not be found in the city and set her to exploring more about urban foraging.
Dandelion Hunter is an interesting, educational, and very enjoyable book that follows Rebecca Lerner as she begins her urban foraging, and learns what, where, and when she can forage. She takes us on the journey with her and along the way she imparts a great deal of information.
Lerner tells about the people she meets who teach her what plants to forage, and also how to forage free food (dumpster diving) and take advantage of road kill (not as gross as it sounds). She shares information on what the original inhabitants of the area ate and how they stored their food, dangers of heavy metals and other contamination in the city, guidelines for ethically wildcrafting, and some of the legal problems that foragers can face.
As she goes along, she mentions the many plants that she eats and makes into medicines, and introduces us to the odd and amazing people she meets. I really appreciated that she gives the botanical names of the plants, so that it is very clear which plant she is talking about, something I particularly appreciate as a foraging instructor.
Lastly, she talks about plants as intelligent beings, validating what I have felt for a very long time. Included at the end are some delightful recipes. Definitely worth taking time to read!