A guide to finding dinner in the woods

Posted July 30, 2010, at 8:37 p.m.

WILD PLANTS OF MAINE: A USEFUL GUIDE by Tom Seymour; Just Write Books, Topsham, Maine, 2010; 160 pages, color photographs; trade paperback, $24.95.

“Wild Plants of Maine” is a chatty, breezy survey of flora that can be foraged as food in these parts.

Waldo County nature guru Tom Seymour, whose previous books include “Hidden World Revealed,” “Hiking Maine,” “Birding Maine” and “Maine Wildlife,” among others, takes us on a meander around the midcoast woods and fields from spring to fall where we learn to pick lunch and dinner. We discover the leaves of the early-springtime evening primrose plant make nice salad greens and the root a tasty vegetable. There are descriptions and instructions for harvesting cattails, fiddleheads, dandelion greens and day lily buds, a section on mushrooms, and all sorts of quirky suggestions such as chewing pearly everlasting blossoms like gum. A short section at the end offers some recipes for wild-plant soups, chutney and casseroles, with mussel and pickerel (also harvestable in the wild) dishes thrown in for good measure.

The information appears to be drawn largely from firsthand memory, and most entries, a page or two each, read like a sort of running monologue you might be treated to on a slow hike in the woods. Seymour’s grandfather saved his life with a tea made of heal-all flowers when he was a boy. He inadvertently started a wild parsnip grove one year. Just like in a walk, some finer details you might like to know do not find their way into the talk (especially cautions about lookalike poisonous plants, which do come up but without as much emphasis as we might think prudent, as in, for example, the resemblance of Queen Anne’s lace, which is edible, to water hemlock, which is fatal but is described in passing only as “toxic”). But otherwise the descriptions are helpful and the color photos with each entry provide a nice look at the subject at hand.”

It’s available from Just Write Books at www.jstwrite.com and from online book sellers.

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