Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana, 2001. $16.00, 6" x 8" paperback, 235 pp.
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Although the title of this book is simple and straightforward, Wild Berries of the West is much more useful than it may seem.
There is an impressive number of species in the book because it covers a wide range of western environments. Even though I have taken university classes in flora of the West, there nevertheless were many plants in this book with which I was unfamiliar-or if I knew them, I was unaware that they produced edible fruit.
The book doesn't simply list edible fruits; it rates their qualities, letting you know if a given fruit is good to eat fresh, merely edible but not very tasty, or if it needs cooking or extensive preparation to render it edible. For the best fruits, there is a section of recipes. Also poisonous berries are well-noted, so the user can avoid them.
Descriptions are not technical or particularly difficult to understand, especially if you have any experience with plants at all, and most of the plants are illustrated with very good color photos.
Gardeners and people interested in ornamental plants will find value in the book too, because many of the plants have notes about their value in wild gardens, or in the landscape. Readers may be surprised to discover native landscape plants they've had for years are also sources of edible fruit.
Wild Berries of the West makes it fun to learn about fruits that are new or different. A lot of them aren't going to win over many palates, but some have enough good qualities to make them well worth exploring further, and this book is a good aid for that.
The above review is the second review for this book; the first review, by Kim Hummer, appeared in the May/June 2002 issue. But in his evaluation of this book, Lon Rombaugh's comments revealed a sufficiently different take on its content that it seemed they might be of value to readers who are interested in such material. Incidentally, both reviewers of this book hail from Oregon. -Editor