A Handbook of Scotland's Wild Harvest – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A Handbook of Scotland's Wild Harvest
Fi Martynoga (ed)
295 pages Paperback
ISBN: 9781887354967

An authoritative new companion for sustainable foraging

hswh_book_coverFrom experts at the Scottish Wild Harvests Association, together with the team who brought us Handbook of Scotland's Trees, comes this indispensable guide to sustainable, responsible harvesting and use of our natural bounty, from its most trusted custodians.

This inspirational guide is packed with invaluable know-how on Scotland’s wild harvest, covering what, where, when and how you can use your bounty in sustainable ways – from the most useful and widespread of species to the less well-known, and from leaves and berries to saps, seeds, seaweeds, mosses and wood. Learn how to begin or extend a repertoire of wild foods and materials that can be used as dyes, remedies and around the home. Complete with recipes, from nettle haggis, blaeberry muffins to elderflower cordial, and and a wealth of woodland and hedgerow materials you can use in the garden or home.

The book is a partnership project between Reforesting Scotland and the Scottish Wild Harvests Association (SWHA), with the information drawn together from expert members of both. Many are professionals in the field, and all of them know their plants and materials thoroughly from years or decades of experience. Their entries abound in useful information on habitat, history, uses, lore, and how to distinguish a useful plant from similar species that are not.

As well as providing a good introduction to foraging in Scotland, the book contains enough detailed tips and insights to be of real interest to experienced gatherers as well.

The Handbook is available direct from Reforesting Scotland - contact the Reforesting Scotland office for details - and also from the publishers, Saraband. Retail price is £12.99 and an app for mobiles and iPads is also being released.

With wild foods and foraging very much in vogue we must harvest Nature's bounty, however, as the book points out, responsible and sustainable and not take too much from any one spot to allow for regrowth, as well as for wildlife's needs.

While concentrating, as the title suggests, on Scotland, in the main, with but a few exceptions, the wild edibles, etc., featured in the book are found throughout Britain.

This is a most valuable boot for anyone wishing to make use of Nature's Wild Harvest and now only are most of those plants, etc., listed in the book found all over Britain, and not just in Scotland, but also in many other places in in Europe and even in the United States.

The book is beautifully illustrated throughout with pen and ink drawings which do not, however, therefore, show the colors and such like. I would, thus, suggest using it together with a good field guide or smartphone app. And for those really serious about foraging I would suggest attending a course with a good teacher or learn from someone who has been doing it for some time successfully.

Many of those wild edibles featured in the book can also, if you would be thus inclined, be grown in your garden and that saves having to go and look for them in the wild. I am doing just that already for a while with a number of them, such as dandelion, sorrel, chickweed, nettles, etc.

© 2013