Russ Cohen’s foraging book, Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten, originally published in 2004 and now (as of June, 2020) in its eighth printing, is a great complement to his walks and talks, as well as an engaging and accessible introduction for anyone new to the subject.
The book describes over forty species of edible wild plants commonly found in Essex County and, for that matter, most of New England. Artistic yet accurate illustrations by Stephanie Letendre augment the plant descriptions.
Russ's vivid descriptions, depth of knowledge and obvious enthusiasm for the subject make the book both fun and informative. The beginning sections include helpful general information on foraging, including safety concerns and etiquette, related conservation issues, and foraging with children.
Part Three includes detailed descriptions of fourteen of Russ’s favorite wild edible plants, including where and when to find each species, how to identify it, related natural and human history, health and nutritional benefits, recipes, and other interesting tidbits. The final section features brief summaries of 27 more edible species found throughout Essex County and beyond.
Last but not least, two extremely useful appendices are a highlight of the book. The first, “When to Pick Wild Edible Plants of New England,” details when to look for edible shoots, ripe fruits, and other wild plant foods during the year, helping readers time their foraging efforts appropriately. The “Edible Wild Plants Checklist and Rarity Ranking” appendix can serve as a foraging “life list” as well as a species-by-species guide for how to forage in an ecologically responsible manner. According to Russ, many owners of his book consider it well worth having for the appendices alone.
Russ’ book is published by the Essex County Greenbelt Association , a nonprofit land trust dedicated to conserving the open space heritage of Essex County. Both he and illustrator Stephanie Letendre generously donated their expertise and time to the creation of the book. In addition, Russ donates all proceeds from book sales to Greenbelt. Copies of the book are available for $15. Please call the Greenbelt office at (978) 768-7241, or purchase the book securely over the Web at Greenbelt’s online store*. [NOTE: Due to the ongpoing pandemic, Greenbelt's offices may be closed and the availability of book purchases from them is somewhat constrained as a result. An alternative source is the B Street Books bookstore, where this book can be purchased securely online and mailed directly to you or others of your choosing.]
"For Russ Cohen the fields and forests and forgotten vacant lots are his supermarkets. Never mind that the relationship between edible wild plants and humans is millions of years old, this book offers a fresh look at your local woodlot. Cohen's method of understanding the environment is total involvement (a literal ingestion in this case) with the wild world. Who would have thought that such delicious (and free) fare could be found so close to home, even if you live in a city."
--John Hanson Mitchell, editor emeritus of Mass. Audubon's “Sanctuary” magazine, and author of Ceremonial Time and several other books about the natural world.
"Until I met Russ Cohen twenty years ago, I didn’t have a clue about what was growing wild around me. Now, I can handily bring Russ Cohen and all his knowledge on the trail with me. Russ has condensed his more than 40 years in the field, literally, into an accessible and passionate guidebook. His knowledge and enthusiasm for all things wild and edible jumps from the pages and is contagious. The book contains basic information about foraging for both the amateur and more-skilled alike. Above all, the book celebrates nature, inspires and makes foraging fun."
--Cathy Walthers, writer and author of Greens, Glorious Greens and several other cookbooks.
“One of the great things about finding and eating wild edible plants is the knowledge gained and wonderful intimacy with one’s surroundings that is developed while foraging. If ‘you are what you eat’ is true, then Russ’s readers will surely become more connected to nature, and will naturally become advocates and ambassadors for protection of our precious indigenous flora. This, along with knotweed pie, is a good thing!”
--Greg Lowenberg, Ph.D., former Education Director, New England Wild Flower Society
"This book offers people yet another way to find inspiration in the scenic, ecological, and now culinary value of Essex County's wild open spaces. We are thrilled that Russ Cohen has worked with us to publish the book, and very grateful for his generous contribution of the book's proceeds."
--Ed Becker, former Executive Director, Essex County Greenbelt Association