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Stalking the Wild Asparagus [Paperback]

Euell Gibbons , John McPhee
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 1962
Euell Gibbons was one of the few people in this country to devote a considerable part of his life to the adventure of “living off the land.” He sought out wild plants all over North America and made them into delicious dishes. His book includes recipes for vegetable and casserole dishes, breads, cakes, muffins and twenty different pies. He also shows how to make numerous jellies, jams, teas, and wines, and how to sweeten them with wild honey or homemade maple syrup.

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From the Publisher

Euell Gibbons was one of the few people in this country to devote a considerable part of his life to the adventure of "living off the land." His greatest pleasure was seeking out wild plants, which he made into delicious dishes. The plants he gathers and prepares in this book are widely available everywhere in North America. There are recipes for delicious vegetable and casserole dishes, breads, cakes, and twenty different pies. He also shows how to make numerous jellies, jams, teas, and wines, and how to sweeten them with wild honey or homemade maple syrup.

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Customer Reviews

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5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient Cuisine Nov. 10 2003
Toward the end of ASPARAGUS, Euell Gibbons relates stopping during a stroll with his wife "at a couple of blooming elder bushes and collecting a bag of elder blow with next morning's breakfast in mind". Clearly, he has a recipe for this strange woodland product, elder blow. That's just one of the strengths of this very strong volume: plenty of recipes and tips to make wild fare taste good. Unlike today's whole food zealot, Gibbons doesn't hesitate to add refined food such as butter or bacon or sugar to his natural bounty. He is equally authoritative on cooking as on gathering, giving clear steps on making everything from stuffed grape leaves to fried frog's legs to Elder Blow Fritters.
But for me the real charm of Gibbons is his evocation of how we ate in the past; far, far in the past when all food was wild food. He speculates that mankind has probably eaten "many millions of tons more of acorns...than of the cereal grains". Fascinating, when you consider that no groceries now carry this formerly prevalent staple, as though it were as useless as an 8-track tape. Gibbons reminds that dandelions were prescribed by primitive doctors to ward off diseases caused by vitamin deficiency long before we had any concept of a vitamin. He is mindful, as he plucks wild grape leaves, that the Vikings reported the presence of grapes on our continent a thousand years ago, and thought that important enough to name it Vinland.
His style is what one would expect from an amiable, erudite grandfather, a member of one of the last generations that saw starvation in America, and that knew the delight of tasting fresh spring greens after a long winter without vegetables.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An American Classic from a natural naturalist Feb. 21 2001
Euell Gibbons became a household word after the 60's because he did a famous cereal commercial "Tastes like wild hickory nuts." Now most of us have never chewed on hickory nuts, but we were captivated by Euell's down-home charm. And during his heyday, we were getting back to nature, being hippies, reading the Foxfire books and re-acquainting ourselves with nature after the cosmic-rocket styles of the 50's.
This book is fun to read because of Euell's way of writing as if he were walking beside you in a field, pointing out the bounties of nature to you personally. His praise of the humble cat-tail, seen in any marsh or even in highway medians is nothing short of a miracle. I think he could survive on cat-tails alone for weeks.
Perhaps Euell felt so strongly about wild foods because as a teen during the Depression in the Texas dustbowl, he provided for the family during a particularly lean time, by gathering wild foods to supplement their diet of mostly pinto beans. He wandered many states later on in his life, finally settling in Camp Hill, PA with his wife Freda, but he never lost his love of wild foods and his feeling that, no one need be hungry if he is a friend of nature.
This book is especially poignant if you have read Into the Wild by Krakauer, the account of a young man who strikes off into the wilds of Alaska to test his mettle, and perishes from a fatal mistake in botany. I recommend all of Euell Gibbon's books, but especially this one, as it was written straight from his heart. After 30 years, it still never fails to enchant.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hallowed Harbinger of Our Ecological Rennaisance May 11 1997
By A Customer
This book ushered in a new era. Unlike most previous works by naturalists which simply inspired or informed, this one moved many to action -- inducing them to "get back to nature" in a very real and practical way. Not to conquer it, per the phony outdoorsmen works galore, nor to simply stand in awe of it, putting it on a pedestal as if it were some kind of prima donna (as do many of the phony environmentalists of today, most of whom have not so much as camped a single night in the woods). But, simply, TO BE ONE WITH NATURE!
I believe this unique kind of motivation ensued because Gibbons spoke with a friend's voice, a companion's voice, and yet with the voice of authority. Indeed, you never doubted that he was the master of his field. In fact, his skill with the wilderness was something he had honed all his life, even back as a youngster when he once saved his family from starvation by bringing home a bushel basket of wild goodies from the woods.
If only people would sit down and read what Gibbons said about the absolute necessity of preserving wild lands, and would really start to speak up and to do something about it, maybe the greedy land "developers" who have run so amok to the point of utter land rape can yet be stopped. (Imagine the mental gymnastics that one must have to go through to justify adopting such a shameful and cowardly profession as land developer!)
Both this book by Gibbons and his many sequels bear testimony as well to the man's magnificent literary skills (he had set out to become a novelist, but his wife convinced him to effectuate the first rule of writing: "Write about what you know.") It is a task that he performed well, writing with apparent ease and putting to mere paper the very secrets of his heart.
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