Written By: Roger Phillips
For Ages: MG & Up
Topics Covered: Food, Foraging, Pint-Sized Professor, Environmental Sustainability.
Summary: This book is a wealth of information, written by well-known British fungi expert Roger Phillips. The book is divided into 4 sections to mimic the seasons, and includes tons of gorgeous photos and recipes for the different foods that can be foraged or bought from markets across the globe.
Phillips has been foraging for most of this life, beginning as a child in 1940. He has since visited Indigenous tribes such as the Nez Perce in Idaho to learn about their traditional farming and gathering techniques. I strongly believe that fostering a love and reverence of nature in children can help to turn the tides on climate change and help us to make sustainable decisions. This is of course an incredibly complicated and multifaceted topic, but The Worldwide Forager is a beautiful compendium of information and photography that can educate readers on edible plants and their identification in the wild. Learning about the world around us can keep us connected to our ancestral roots, and inspire people to go out in nature and be observant about the natural phenomena taking place every day of the year.
While reading this book and writing this review I was also listening to the Point of Origin Podcast’s most recent episode about food anthropology, which I encourage you to check out! Foraging done incorrectly can not only be a health risk, but also severely endanger plants. Indigenous Peoples have been foraging for millennia, and when colonizers forage unsustainably it impacts their communities and the ecosystem.
Excerpts taken from this news article!
Phillips published books about trees and ferns and wild flowers before he got to mushrooms. He didn’t think the publisher at Pan would go for it. The British, he suggests, had always been funny about fungi. While across Europe and beyond natives would be out in fields and forests as if on pilgrimage in mushroom season, in the UK there was no tradition. “We were famous for herbs from medieval times, of course,” says Phillips. “But those books tend to refer to mushrooms as ‘the spit of Jesus’ or ‘the fruit of the devil’. Because they grew up from nowhere overnight they were associated with witchcraft.”
He has learned a lot, too, from spending time with a Native American tribe, the Nez Perce, in Idaho, who retain some of the ancient knowledge of hunter-gatherers. Not only did Phillips increase his knowledge of edible tubers, he became friends with an eminently quotable chief: “How long will it take mankind to realise that you cannot eat money?”
Despite all the changes he has witnessed at first hand as a result of factory farming, he remains an optimist. He believes not only that we may see a necessary revival in sustainability, but that some of the more miraculous properties of fungi in particular might yet help us to fix the damage already done to the planet. “Fungi have been used to break down oil spills,” he says. “I think they will have a role to play in ridding the world of plastic.”