I come across a lot of books which I am not going to outright read because they are more for reference or valued in some other way. This is one of those books. I have added a new spotlight book category for the books I come across which I’m not going to read every single word of, but I enjoy and value none-the-less.
This book was published back in 1966, which was in the very midst of the Cold War. The world knew the dangers of the atomic bomb and doomsdayers had another reason to fear. The author of this book is part doomsdayer and part naturalist.
One of the best quotes from the book is:
It may happen that you and yours will be compelled to seek sanctuary in the outdoors because of those ever increasing threats to civilization itself–an atom bomb catastrophe or the even more terrible microscopic foes of germ warfare.
That sentence is actually the entire reason I bought this book years ago. I loved how the author thought he was trying to prepare everyone for a world of disaster, which could always happen. I mean it is 2012. The world is supposed to explode this year or something. Ptsch! Don’t you think the Mayans probably just got tired of making their calendar? Just a thought. I mean I really don’t care what is happening two or three thousand years from now. I won’t be here to see.
Anyways, I do love this little book. It’s very useful. The forward alone is great for entertainment, but I love the information held within its pages. Bradford divides the book up into sections.
- Wild Fruits
- Wild Greens
- Wild Roots and Tubers
- Wild Nuts
- Wild Beverages
Each section contains listings of plants and descriptions of what they are, what they look like, and perhaps how to prepare them. Not every plant gets a picture and I’m a little bummed about that. I think every plant should have a picture. They’re also not photographs. The pictures are sketches, which is nice, but people really prepare photographs these days. I do have to forgive Bradford for this though because the book was published quite some time before I was even born.
Can you eat it? Yes, you can. Dandelions are like a wild superfood. My husband has been very interested in them lately because they’re a very good anti-cancer plant, especially the roots, which you can make into a coffee substitute.
Bradford gives these instructions on making Dandelion roots into a coffee-like drink:
Roast the roots slowly in an open over all afternoon until, shriveling, they resemble minature dragons and will snap crisply when broken, revealing insides as brown as coffee beans.
Grind these roots and keep tightly covered for use either as regular coffee or for mixing to extend your normal supplies. Dandelions may be used year around for this purpose.
Who knew? My grandmother actually and everyone her age.
I really like that information is contained in this book that would be lost. There aren’t many people tromping around in the weeds looking for wild things to eat. Before there were grocery stores people just walked out into their yards and grabbed stuff. That’s how the world worked. That’s how we got all our modern day vegetables and fruits. Somewhere someone was like, “Maybe I can eat that.” When they didn’t die from eating whatever it was, some more people figured out that maybe they could plant these items in gardens. Over the years farmers were able to create domesticated versions of things like potatoes. So without people who randomly ate wild plants you would not be able to have French fries from McDonalds. Think about that.
As for the physical book itself. It’s small. It’s almost pocket-sized. You would have to have a rather large pocket to fit it in, but it would be possible to carry it with you while you were trouncing around in the woods. The cover is textured and thick, which makes it a little more durable. That is probably why it’s lasted as long as it has, 1966 wasn’t yesterday. The fork on the front is actually stamped into the cover of the book. It’s not just printed on there. I like the extra little touch someone put into this book. Mine is actually a sixth printing from 1971, so it’s not quite as old as 1966. There is no index in the back of the book. It’s located in the front after the table of contents.
Bradford has written other books, none of which I have ever ran across.
- Home in Your Pack
- Mister Rifleman
- We Like it Wild
- Wilderness Cookery
- How to Go Live in the Woods on $10 a Week
- On Your Own in the Wilderness
- Living Off the Country
- How to Build Your Own Home in the Woods
- At Home in the Woods
- Skills for Taming the Wilds
I wonder if by any chance this guy was related to Jean Craighead George because he really liked to be outside.
This is Bradford by the way. Just look how he rolls, suspenders, hat, pipe, glasses and lots of personality. I wonder if he killed him a bear when he was only three? No, of course, Bradford wasn’t Davy Crockett, but he sure was an interesting guy.
Upon doing a little research on Angier, I found out that he was a lover of Thoreau, I didn’t see that one coming. *I roll my eyes* Everybody who loved Thoreau decided to run off into the woods and be one with nature and all that jazz. I am not denying that it might be a very good thing to do, it’s just a little extreme for most people.
In fact, Bradford was so Thoreau-ish, that he inspired others to run off into the woods as well. People actually thought Bradford was so awesome that they packed up the kids and headed for the hills, there weren’t even any air raid sirens going or anything, they just went.
Free for the Eating just has so much personality. Bradford was a little extreme, but this book is just great. I love it. There is no way this book will leave my collection. It’s just too neat. If you ever happen to see this at the thrift shop or the flea market pick it up. You’ll be glad.