Thanks to Gunnison author Briana Wiles’ new guidebook, Mountain States Foraging (Timber Press, June 2016), identifying a chokecherry bush or an outcropping of mountain candytuft on your next hike just got easier. Wiles, who also owns Rooted Apothecary, released the 338-page book this summer. It includes detailed identification tips, descriptions, and recipe ideas for finding, identifying, and eating 115 wild edible plants.
While the book covers plants found in mountainous regions from Nevada to Saskatchewan, Wiles did most of her research and photography near her Colorado home. “The fun part about our state is we have all these elevations to play with,” Wiles says. As she puts it in the book’s introduction: “In these parts, a forager can chase seasons from low to high plains all the way to the high country.” While I don’t always think of Colorado as an especially fertile state, its diversity of elevations and environments makes for a rich variety of wild edibles. The book details which seasons are best for foraging which plant, making it easier to know what to look for while out on the trail.
If you’re new to foraging, you’ll find Wiles’ hundreds of clear color photos and tips on how to harvest sustainably, garble, winnow, and avoid poisonous plants very useful. Even if you’re a seasoned pro, her thoughts on what to make with your findings will surely inspire. While she doesn’t include precise recipes (an impracticality as one never knows how much of a given plant will be available), she does give fantastic suggestions for how to consume and preserve edibles in unique ways. I, for one, would never have thought to pickle purslane stems, add burdock root to mashed potatoes, or to infuse prickly pear in vinegar for a fruity vinaigrette.
Wiles discourages any budding forager from consulting just one guidebook when attempting to identify wild foodstuffs. That said, hers is certainly a useful one to add to your collection if you plan on doing any wildcrafting during these late summer hikes. Pick up a copy at the Tattered Cover or the Boulder bookstores, or order it here.
Bonus: Mountain States Foraging focuses on tasty, edible plants. Wiles is currently writing a second book for Timber Press that will emphasize the region’s medicinal wild plants.