It doesn’t happen often enough; you come across a book that so delights and changes the way you look at the world around you; Johanna Knox’s A Forager’s Treasury definitely enchants.
I’m a plant-lover with an extensive kitchen garden, but I’ve learnt so much in reading this book. I now look at roadside verges and weedy lawns in a completely new way. I see food everywhere. Not many people get excited by the sight of onion weed. Now I can’t wait for those little white bonnets to pop up ready for use in weed pakoras or parmesan crisps. And I’m compiling a long list of all the things I’m going to do with kawakawa, from spice blends and flavouring pannacotta to perfumes and liqueurs.
The writing is delightful, full of warmth and inspiring detail. I love the stories of her less-than-successes as much as her successes. The wide-eyed aspirations of a young girl who buried a plastic bag of apples in the garden so she could surprise her family mid-winter with perfectly preserved produce. And it’s the telling details of her wide experience that I really appreciate.
“The enormous, floppy, fuzzy leaves of tree mallows are known as an emergency toilet paper substitute, but I can say from experimentation that they have a nasty, squeaky, water-repellent feel, like 1970’s velour, and ‘emergency’ is the operative word.” (p92)
The book provides a very practical framework to make your foraging dreams a reality. There is a lovely introduction to the foraging ethos and rules of engagement. A wide variety of foragable treasures available in New Zealand are described beautifully with pretty little illustrations. However, this is not an identification guide. You will need to take another book on your missions–excellent examples are listed in the Resources.
This is a book to keep safe at home to inspire, and then hurry back to with your goodies. Because, the real diamond in this book, is the artful prescription for using your foraged finds. I love the way Knox has approached the recipe section. Instead of a list of specific ingredients combined in staid ways, A Forager’s Treasury opens up the world of materials to work with and then provides the formulas to create your own culinary, medicinal, fragrant and even colour magic.
Solid methods of preserving your bounty are presented, and a wonderful selection of recipes give you the foundation necessary to embrace experimentation. ‘The Art of the Wild Salad’ is a charming example covering the mixing and matching of flavours, and then gives a table of taste groups so you can blend something incredible.
Like all good books these days, there is a website to go with it. This is a great way for the author to update any areas of the book that may have been lacking. Printable indexes by plant name and recipe have been included. The photo ID gallery is a really good add-on with very clear images. I look forward to seeing what else will appear at http://foragerstreasurygallery.blogspot.co.nz
Johanna Knox’s A Forager’s Treasury is a gem of a book. Beautifully illustrated, delightfully written and full of wonderful information that will be sitting pride of place on my bookshelf for a very long time.
Reviewed by Anna Butterfield www.loveplantlife.com
A Forager’s Treasury
by Johanna Knox
Published by Allen & Unwin
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