Where the wild things are

Violets

Foraging for food is as old as mankind. It was the primary source of sustenance for ages, and a few small societies today still forage for most of their food. By and large, however, foraging is a lost art, but it does resurface now and then. Foraging became popular in the 1960s, with books like Euell Gibbons' Stalking the Wild Asparagus leading the charge.

Now foraging is making another resurgence, thanks in part to celebrated chefs like René Redzepi of Copenhagen's award-winning Noma, where wild ingredients delight diners. But you don't have to be a chef to discover the delights of foraging. The Telegraph's Rob Cowen offers us a primer on how to find and use Jack-in-the-hedge, while Catriona Thompson of The Scotsman shows us native edibles in her area.

Young chickweedFollowing the trend, books on foraging are popping up like so many weeds. Mushrooms are popular foraged foods, and Edible Mushrooms, British Edible Fungi, and The Mushroom Book give us the scoop on which mushrooms are safe (and delicious) to eat. The Edible Flower Garden and Cooking with Flowers demonstrate that foraged food can be as beautiful as it is delicious. Sergei Boutenko (son of raw-food guru Victoria Boutenko) explains how to safely identify trailside weeds, herbs, fruits, and greens, in his book Wild Edibles.

Many foraging tomes are region-specific, identifying plants that can be easily found in a particular area. Among those are the soon-to-be-published Foraging California and Florida's Edible Wild Plants, and others such as Foraging the Rocky Mountains and Foraging New England. Foraging isn't limited to the U.S., however, as books like Wild Food and Rosehips on a Kitchen Table hail from the U.K., Forage focuses on western Australia, and Find It, Eat It explores wild edibles in New Zealand.

Depending on your taste for adventure, you can even try hand at gathering more than plants with Eating Insects, the unique Entertaining with Insects (please don't feel compelled to invite me), and Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects. And for those who are living in certain states in the U.S., we have some great books for cooking with not just weeds, but with weed: Make the Best Marijuana Edibles and Cannabis Cuisine.

What edible treasures have you found in your backyard or nearby wilderness?

Photos of violets and young chickweed by Darcie Boschee

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