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 Native Edible  Plants of New ZealandBOOK REVIEWS

A Field Guide to Native Edible Plants of New Zealand

By Andrew Crowe
Published by Godwit Press, New Zealand, 1997
$NZ29.95

Reviewed by Mike Oates

This is one of those enduring classics that seems to remain popular despite changing fashions and at a time when there are plethora of books on the market on every aspect of native plants. It has remained, like 'The Native Trees of New Zealand' by John Salmon, a benchmark on the subject. However, just like the most popular motor car brands, this model needs to be repackaged to retain its popularity. The third edition sees a change in format to a smaller pocket guide that is easy to handle and take out in the field where it will be most useful.

The book is based on the experiences of the author whose interest in the subject lead him to spend 10 days in the bush in February 1974 without any food supplies. This was followed with major research leading to the latest edition which contains over 190 plants including trees, shrubs, herbs, ferns, mushrooms, lichens, and seaweeds. Each plant is described in detail with its major diagnostic characteristics, the part of the plant eaten, and its major uses. It finished with short sections on traditional cooking methods of Maori, bush survival and poisonous plants.

This inclusion of poisonous plants is critical to the success of the book. It is easy to mistake plants in the wild and its important that before you eat any part of a plant it is positively identified. The descriptive part of each entry is therefore very important. It is pleasing to see the detailed descriptions as well as the links to similar species that could easily be confused. What is a little bit confusing is the double entry of poisonous plants in both the edible and poisonous sections of the book. Take Tutu for example. All parts of this plant are poisonous except the flower petals. The section on this plant deals at length with the Maori use of the plant. One must question the detail in this section when it finishes with the advice that it should be ignored!!

This is a small quibble though and should not detract from what has deservedly become an enduring classic from an author who is fast becoming one of our most prolific writers on native plants.

Also see a later review of this book

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