Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons

I run the Galesburg Public Library's book discussion group that meets monthly at En Season Cafe at the Sustainable Business Center. We discussed Stalking the Wild Asparagus this month. This book was published in 1962 and is rightfully considered a bible of the environmental movement and a primer for anyone interested in healthy, inexpensive eating.

I didn't expect to enjoy this book very much, but I was wrong. I found it easy to read and full of interesting tidbits. For example, I learned that the Pecan tree is a member of the hickory family! The author has a familiar, jovial narrative style that was very inviting. The whole group enjoyed reading it and we had a great discussion.

This is a reference book broken into chapters on different wild plants. I love oak trees and particularly enjoyed the chapter on acorns. Reading it made me eager to try candied acorns. Gibbons really knows his subject matter. Just like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, at one point in his teenaged years Gibbons saved his family from starving by providing food from the wild.

Stalking the Wild Asparagus has held up very well.
Suburbanites "pay exorbitant prices for tasteless greenhouse produce and week-old vegetables from Florida or California, and never realize that they have driven their station wagons past tons of much better vegetables on the way to the supermarket. They feel smugly superior to the rummaging people they passed along the way. Why? There's nothing smart about eating poor food and getting gypped in the bargain, when nature is offering much better fare for the taking." (p. 226)
Substitute "mini vans" for "station wagons" and this could have been written today.

My only criticism is that Gibbons does downplay the challenge of actually identifying some of these plants in the field. On the other hand, he strongly words his chapter about taking care when foraging for wild mushrooms.

I need to get a copy on my shelf before the collapse of civilization because it would certainly come in handy if we had no electricity and limited food sources. If you are interested in alternative food sources and the environment, I definitely recommend Stalking the Wild Asparagus. It is an easy book to slowly read a chapter at a time.

The Galesburg Public Library owns two copies of Stalking the Wild Asparagus (as well as a copy of Stalking the Healthful Herbs). They can be found in the nonfiction section at 581.632 GIB.

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