New book finds food in the 'wild'

Although geared toward young foragers, book is good for all

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Wild plants taste good and promote health, and procuring them is a lot more fun than a trip to the supermarket, said Iowa author and renowned forager Mike Krebill, whose new book provides expert guidance in finding, identifying, preparing and enjoying 40 plants and mushrooms common to North America.

“Teaching people how to find and enjoy them has probably been more fun than finding them myself,” said Krebill of Keokuk, a retired science teacher, naturalist and Scouts leader.

The nuts, fruits, berries, greens and mushrooms profiled in “The Scout’s Guide to Wild Edibles” are almost all found in Iowa, he said.

The 192-page paperback, small enough to fit in a large pocket, provides clear color photos and identification tips for each plant. Though the title suggests it’s written for young foragers, the book will appeal to and benefit readers of all experience levels.

The book’s 17 recipes include one for dandelion doughnuts, made from just the yellow portion of the blooms.

“That’s probably the number one favorite of all the Boy Scouts I have taught over the years,” Krebill said.

Published Nov. 15 by St. Lynn’s Press, the book sold more than 3,000 copies over the holiday gift-giving season, and Krebill said he expects sales to surge as spring weather invites foragers to spend more time outdoors.

Asked to name some of his favorite wild edibles, Krebill mentioned wild strawberries, asparagus, black walnuts, dandelions and, of course, morels.

Krebill, an authority on finding morels, covers them and six other mushrooms: chanterelle, giant puffball, hen of the woods, oyster, Scotch bonnet and sulfur shelf.

Krebill’s 50 tips for spotting morels, one of the most thorough and insightful such compendiums extant, can be accessed on the Department of Natural Resources website.

With the morel, perhaps the most popular of all wild edibles, about to soon sneak into Iowa woodlots and timbers, Krebill offered some advice.

“Get into a spot where the soil temperature is right,” he said. “Boldly go where no one else has been. Look for dead and dying elm trees.”

Krebill advises testing the soil temperature at a depth of 4 inches with an instant-read thermometer and to start looking when it reaches 53 degrees. That typically coincides with the first flush of blooming dandelions, he said.

The farther into the woods you go, the less likely another seeker is beating your time, Krebill said. Noting the competitive nature of mushroom hunters, he said “never share your locations with anyone.”

Of all the plant types with which morels have an affinity, “the elm tree in Iowa is number one. Those that have been dead less than a year are most productive,” Krebill said.

The book, which lists for $18.95, is on sale now for $10.21 at Amazon.com.

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