I have a lot of books, and it will surprise none of you that a lot of the books I have are about food. There’s a subset of those books that I tend to keep close at hand – some are cookbooks, others are useful as references and some are just interesting in their own right. One of the last category is Edible Plants of the Gulf South, by Charles Allen, Andrew Allen and Harry Winters.

         Were it not for this book, I would not be able to pinpoint the peak of my “foraging phase.” But fortunately I ordered my copy directly from Allen Native Ventures, and Charles Allen signed my copy on October 19, 2008.

         My “foraging phase” mainly entailed reading books about wild edibles and thinking “can I eat that?” as I walked around outside. (Answer: Sure you can! Better Question: Should I eat that? Answer: Almost certainly not!)

         The topic still fascinates me, though, and while my own foraging may be limited to berries and the occasional chanterelle mushroom, I’m not giving up hope that I could one day actually identify purslane and wood sorrel without fear of poisoning myself. (Which, to be honest, I’m much more likely to do by eating what appears to be a chanterelle mushroom but instead tastes like burning).

         At any rate, I have not had the chance to meet Mr. Allen in person, but I am hoping to remedy that soon, because he will be in New Orleans on the evening of June 19 to speak from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum in connection with the 5th Annual New Orleans Eat Local Challenge

         The next morning, Mr. Allen will conduct a walking tour in City Park, and another that evening in Audubon Park. Having walked through City Park with the specific intent of finding wild things to eat, I am very much hoping to participate in that end of the affair. While the illustrations in Edible Plants of the Gulf South are clear, there is not really a substitute for someone showing you the real thing, such that you can feel, smell and taste it. Also, having someone there to say “don’t eat that, it will cause you to bleed from the ears” would also be helpful.

         I have matured somewhat since the heady days of 2008 when I was “into” foraging. I no longer think about making flour from acorns, for example, but I’m still curious about what in our immediate environment might be tasty. If you are too, reserve one of the 20 or so spots left for Mr. Allen’s talk on the 19th while you still can. Hopefully I’ll see you there.