Book Reviews For Hungry Folks

A Field Guide to Farmers' Markets - Sally Ann Berk

This is a cool book for folks who are new to fresh foods.  While aimed at things you can buy at a farmers' market, it is also good for new gardeners or those taking part in a CSA program.

The first part of the book gives information about all the different fruits and vegetables that one is likely to find locally.  Each one has a nice color picture, followed by a list of the major vitamins and minerals, descriptions of what good, ripe ones look like, information on whether you can or should refrigerate or freeze them, and the shelf life.  There is then one or more icons that indicate which season the produce is harvested in.  That helps you sort out if what you are looking at was probably grown locally or if it is out of season and was imported.  It also lists which pages on which you can find recipes including that ingredient.

The next session is recipes for all these fresh foods you've just learned about.  It has sections for starters, soups, salads, side dishes, entrees, sauces-condiments-dressings, and desserts & baked goods.  In each recipe, the fresh foods from the book are highlighted so you know to look for them in the first part.

It's a pretty good idea the way the cross referencing works in two directions.  I could flip through the recipes and decide that Capellini with Bell Peppers and Snow Peas looks good to try.  Through the highlighted parts of the recipe, I'd know to look up onion, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper and snow peas to find out how to shop for them and if they are in season.  Conversely, maybe I'm at the market with my book and I get a good deal on green beans, I'll know that I can look on pages 134, 154 and 161 for recipes.

If you are already an old hand at cooking with fresh vegetables, then this is probably not the book for you, but if you are new to the game, it's a pretty good one.  It is tall, but narrow, so it can fit in your pocket when you go to market, so it is user-friendly, too.

A Field Guide to Farmers' Markets How to Select and Prepare the Freshest Foods for All Seasons

Edible Wild Plants, Eastern/Central North America - Lee Allen Peterson

I got this book to take with me to Pathfinder school this past summer.  As we did our wild edibles and medicinal tours of the training areas, it came in really handy for learning more information about the plants I saw.  This is part of the Peterson Field Guide series, and will fit in a cargo pants pocket or in a musette bag.

The line drawings are very detailed, and make it easy to figure out what plant you are looking at.  The guide is broken down into flowering plants, woody plants, and miscellaneous plants such as grasses, ferns and mushrooms.  Another section breaks it down by the types of environments in which to find edible plants, then cross references back to the correct page.  Another section breaks it down by what type of food you want to prepare from your wild plants.  Everything from candies and chewing gum to teas and beer... again with the cross reference back. 

Because so many poisonous plants have similarities to edible ones, the book gives very detailed descriptions and pictures of the poisonous ones and shows the exact similarities and differences.  I know that I'll be using it on camping trips with my Cub Scout nephew and just hiking our property and other trails.

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guide)

I think these two books belong in your library and in regular use.  If you are like me, I know you can always eat more fresh produce, and the first book really gives some tasty ways to do that.  The second book really helps a person be more aware of what is in your local environment, and seeing how much is really out there.  Of course, if you are not in eastern and central North America, there is a different field guide for you.

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