A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to hear Miles Irving speak on his favourite topic – foraging. As a professional forager providing wild foods to the restaurant trade, Miles is a leading expert on the gathering and use of wild food and ‘The Forager Handbook’ is an essential guide for anyone interested in the subject.
The majority of the book’s 408 pages are devoted to descriptions of hundreds of native British wild plants. Their distribution and habitat are described, along with a detailed description. Notes and anecdotes from Miles follow, along with uses, recipes, harvesting notes and hazards if necessary. Similar looking plants are also described, with tips for correct identification. Brief descriptions of medical benefits are also given, where known.
The book has lovely photos throughout – Miles has gone for black and white in order to emphasise the plant’s form, a real benefit to identification. The early chapters cover how, where and why to forage, uses of different plant parts, cooking and preparation methods and hazards along with plant guides by time of year and local environment.
One of the problems faced by the modern-day forager is knowing how to harvest and prepare wild foods. Miles is at the forefront of rediscovering this ancient knowledge, and with the help of the chefs that he works with, suggests numerous recipes and cooking ideas for these ‘lost’ foods.
I have already spent many hours studying and enjoying this book, and putting into practice some of Miles’ advice, and I look forward to a great deal more foraging to come!