When you’re making something from a cookbook, you expect it to taste good if you follow it correctly. At the very least, it shouldn’t make you sick. Reviewers went after “Tales From a Forager’s Kitchen” saying that the recipes did just that. In fact, the food might even result in death.
For a few years, Johnna Holmgren has run her “Fox Meets Bear” Instagram, chronicling her life in Minnesota. She shares pictures and stories about foraging the forest, gardening, and cooking with over 130,000 followers. In May of 2018, she published her first cookbook. However, many of the recipes could be dangerous. Most people aren’t familiar enough with wild plants to identify the safe ones from the poisonous ones, and according to reviews, the book doesn’t do a good enough job of pointing that out.
Buzzfeed released a report explaining the dangers, focusing on the recipe for “Dark Chocolate Dipped Fungi.” The recipe recommends raw morel mushrooms, but experts say you need to cook all wild mushrooms. Raw morels contain hard-to-digest compounds and those are the safe ones. Known as “false morels,” mushrooms that look very similar are toxic and can cause seizures, delirium, comas, and even death. If a reader isn’t educated enough, they could easily pick the wrong fungi.
Other recipes call for raw elderberries, which can lead to severe digestive issues, and unsoaked raw acorns, which contain tannins that irritate the stomach. In light of such negative press, the publisher Rodale Books is discontinuing “Tales From A Forager’s Kitchen” and offering full refunds. On the Fox Meets Bear website, there’s an update from August 10th that reposts the statement from Rodale.
On the bottom of the website, Johann also writes that while she strives to be “100% accurate,” it’s the responsibility of readers to identify plants correctly. That may be true, but it might be a good idea in the future to publish recipes that are as safe as possible.