The Wilderness Cure by Mo Wilde

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The Wilderness Cure by Mo Wilde

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A rivetting look at the benefits and challenges of eating only wild food for a year. It's something we might all need to be able to do.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: June 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1398508637

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Foraging is an epigenetic Post-it note on our generation that we all share. It defines us as simply 'human'.

It had been on the cards for a while but it was the week-long Black Friday consumer binge which pushed Mo Wilde into beginning her year of eating only wild food. The end of November, particularly in Central Scotland was perhaps not the best time to start, in a world where the normal sores had been exacerbated by climate change, Brexit and a pandemic. Wilde had a few advantages: the area around her was a known habitat with a variety of terrains. She had electricity which allowed her to run a fridge, freezer and dehydrator. She had a car - and fuel. Most importantly, she had shelter: this was not a plan to live wild just to live off its produce.

Wilde also had a background as a herbalist. To quote from her website: Mo Wilde is a forager, research herbalist, author and ethnobotanist, with a Masters degree in Herbal Medicine. She has been teaching foraging formally since 2005 and was a founding member of the Association of Foragers. Monica is a Fellow of the Linnean Society, a Member of the British Mycological Society and a Member of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS). She practices at Napiers Lyme Clinic specialising in integrative medicine in the treatment of Lyme disease, lectures in herbal medicine and teaches foraging courses. This was not some innocent setting off on a crack-brained project and possibly putting themselves at risk.

Many people claim to eat seasonally and from local produce (I would have done so myself until I really thought about it) but it's virtually impossible. Where do you get your carbohydrates between January and July? No one 'diet' is going to work and eating only wild food which you have collected yourself is relentless hard work and requires constant planning. If you're thinking of picking up this book for tips on where to find the best chanterelles or for recipes for wild mushroom soup and blackberry jam, then you're going to be sorely disappointed. Many of the ingredients which you would require are simply not available to the wild forager.

I may sometimes forget where I've put my car keys or what I came into the room for, but, like every good forager, I never forget where I once found food.

What began as pleasant and distracting walks accompanied by a little light foraging, soon evolved into targetted missions to collect what was required. There's a necessity to ensure that there's a balance of nutrients and that there's a reasonable return on the effort invested in collecting food - calories expended against calories collected. Wilde lost 31 kilos over her year and whilst she wouldn't recommend the experiment purely as a means of losing weight, she was delighted with the result in terms of how she looked and felt. Her dress size had shrunk from 18/20 to 10/12 but in the long term, it would be essential to balance the calories collected in an hour with the effort expended. Also, Wilde had previously been vegetarian and there was a noticeable effect on the gut when it became necessary to eat meat which had to be taken into consideration.

There's a careful and considered balance of scientific information and common sense - in much the same way that Wilde used stone tools to skin a deer and also used a dishwasher. She's pragmatic but focused on the aim of the year. She had a couple of 'lapses' but they were very minor. It wasn't an easy read but it was very readable and most enjoyable. I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

I will shelves this between 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari and How to Love Animals in a Human-Shaped World by Henry Mance. You might also appreciate Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz and Rachel Ward (translator).

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