Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Review: Wild Cards: Edible Wild Foods

Learning about edible plants, without the help of a guide, is tricky business. The resources that make identification easy (guidebooks and the web) don't travel particularly well in the wilderness. And then there's a knowledge catch-22: you need a certain base level of knowledge to know what you're looking for, yet the resources available present you with so many possible plants, that it's hard to know where to start.

Enter Wild Cards, a deck of cards, where each card contains a photo and description of an edible plant. My Sister and Brother-in-law picked these cards up for my birthday (thanks guys!!), and so far, I've been really impressed.

First off, the cards are nice and portable (they also feel durable - perhaps water proof?), so I can easily bring them along when I'm out for a hike. They are also small enough that I can grab them and review them while I'm waiting in the doctor's office or if I have some other gray time. Because it's a deck of cards, you can even grab just a few, and focus on learning those. Or, use them as flash cards.

The cards also solve the problem of which of the gagillions of plants to learn first. Most of the 50 or so plants described are available throughout the US, and many are very common. Some, you'll already know, such as dandelions, roses, cat tails - which is a nice feeling.

The cards have a fair amount of information packed on them, including a photo, hand drawing, describing of what parts you can eat, additional identification methods ("small like mustard", for example) and how to prepare it.

Of course these cards don't replace a complete guidebook, or multiple guidebooks. But, as a beginner's tool, it's small enough to go everywhere, comprehensive, yet not overwhelming that you'll just give up on trying to learn all the information.

Incidentally, the weakest part of the cards is the the card part - both sides of the card have unique information on it. So, while the cards are marked like regularly playing cards, they can't be used without some modification (the directions suggest you cover the backs of the card with your hand). I think they'll work for playing card games, but they aren't ideal.

The real test should come in a few weeks, when I hope to spending a bunch of time outdoors. I've got to do some studying before then, and then keep my eyes peeled for possible bounty.

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