Mountaineers Books BLOG

All the tid-bits and overall awesomeness surrounding our authors rounded up in one place.
Okay, so. First off: No. NOT what you are thinking.

Now that that’s out of the way, why yes, the title of this post is exactly what it means — some of those weeds that you see growing everywhere is, in fact, edible! And we are not talking about a crazy, “look-at-me!” stunt you do in fourth grade either. We are talking about nutritious, delicious, and downright fancy recipes here!

As always when you are foraging plants: ALWAYS check to see if your body can handle these plants before gorging on them. And if you aren’t sure what you picked is poisonous or not, remember the age-old trick of not eating it.

Hey, speaking of poisons and passed-down aphorisms…

1. Flavor is not a good indicator of plant safety. For instance, yew berries are quite sweet and juicy, but their seeds can be fatal if ingested. There’s a reason yew berries are also called “death berries” (side note: what a great name for a band!)

Yew Berries. DO NOT EAT THIS

It’s a good idea to not go by those old “tricks” such as “if a bird eats it, it’s safe” or “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” And if you think “oh, I’ll just taste it with my tongue and spit it out” is a good idea, might I introduce you to the petty spurge, a plant whose sap is so irritating that it’s used to remove warts. Still want to put THAT in your mouth?

2. For a less skin-burningly plant, a good choice would be cat ears. Often mistaken for a type of dandelion (parts of which are also edible), cat ears tend to be less bitter, as nutritious, and also smarter — cat ears has “learned” to grow lower than dandelions to avoid mower blades. Some places in Europe serve cat ears with garlic and olive oil.

3. For those who feel like they need a change of fortune, why not try some white clover? Bees love them, and many farmers grow white clovers in hopes of producing clover honey.

Careful, don’t step on bees in a clover field!

Clovers are amazingly versatile, and not just as food: It’s perennial, tolerates and improves soils, hardy against cold, frost, and droughts, and as if that’s not enough, it emits a wonderful scent to boot. And oh yeah, the entire plant is edible and nutritious!

High in protein for a plant, you can try younger leaves in a salad. For the older leaves, try it in your baking for vanilla-esque goods.

4. For something a little fruity, give Sweet Briar Rose a try. A weed related to the apple family, and their leaves, flowers, and hips are all edible. The hips, again being related to the apple family, can grow as big as crab apples — how’s that for a big, giant, weed?

A good use of rose hips are to use them in baked goods, where they can provide a fruity, spicy flavor. Now if you’d just stop giggling when I say these are some great weed brownies.

5. And it goes without saying, you can eat dandelions. Often the gateway weed (yes, puns. Wait for it…) for budding weed-foragers (…there!), dandelions are probably the most common weed found in North America.

Look, someone left a salad in the middle of the field

In North America, some people make dandelion wine; in Belgium, some make dandelion ale. And dried, ground dandelion root makes a pretty good coffee substitute.

Best of all, it’s very safe plant to eat. Though, as always, every body handles things differently, there’s really no major poisonous look-a-likes to dandelions; the closest may be the cats ears covered above, and those are pretty delicious in their own right.

So there you are! The next time an HOA complains about you letting your weeds grow out of control, you can say you are growing a farm!

Adapted from The Front Yard Forager by Melany Vorass Herrera
Here at Mountaineers Books, it is the controversial opinion of this blog post author that doing good > doing not good. Part of what makes the Mountaineers Books staff go is seeing all the ways we can help each other do the things we do.

But we don’t always have to wait for a soggy weekend to save the world. We believe the tiny changes add up to big results, and here are a few little tips to help get you started.

1. Choose presents that makes a difference. We all like to get the perfect gift, but a special few of us embrace the challenge of giving the perfect gift. That includes making our own gifts or giving the gift of a concert experience rather than something physical. The only thing bigger than the impact of a perfectly crafted pin cushion pig, is the impact you’d be making for our environment!

2. Take your own cup to work. A lot of plastic bottles are sent to the landfills each year. And by a lot, we mean 2 million tons in the US in 2005 alone. Plus the oil used to make those bottles (the equivalent of 18 million barrels of crude-oil), bringing your own cup and (re-usable) bottles is one of the most effective ways in reducing trash.

The two most coveted cups in the Mountaineers Books office. Whoever gets these cups first in the morning is the envy of the staff.

3. Switch to energy-saving light bulbs.The dirty secret behind cleaner energy (pun intended, as always) is that it is cost-effective to you. A single compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) saves up to $30 in electricity costs over its lifetime — and a CFL’s lifetime is years. If every US household changed just one CFL, we’d be saving the equivalent of $600 million on energy costs AND 800,000 cars’ worth of emissions each year.

4. Turn off the tap when it’s not in use. For instance, turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth can save 5 gallons of water. Less than 1 percent of the world’s water is drinkable, so every little action counts — literally a drop of water in the ocean is worth it!

5. Spam mail, we don’t like it, and we don’t send it (mail you receive from Mountaineers Books DOESN’T go to your junk folder, riiiiight?). This includes physical mail sent to your box. But beyond dumping them into the recycling bin, you can do even more by preventing them from being sent in the first place. You can contact groups like the Direct Marketing Association and Abacus Catalog Alliance to have your name and address removed from lists.

Adapted from Live Generously, 50 Small Acts That Makes a Big Difference edited by Julie Van Pelt

Here at Mountaineers Books, we love the outdoors; The beauty, the majesty, the details.

But not all of nature is wonderful and postcard-esque. Parts of nature are poisonous, aggressive, and downright jerks. This little post celebrates those jerks, and the little details that make their jerk-dom so love-hatingly impressive.

1. A dead, even decapitated, pit viper can still bite and inject poison reflexively up to one hour after death. This should further reinforce the notion to not approach poisonous snakes.

Oh, the most common (human) profiles of pit viper bites in the US? The intoxicated, 17-27 year old male who intentionally approached the pit viper. Again, don’t go around challenging poisonous snakes, brah.

2. The small and furry Jumping Spider is so aggressive that often times, a victim will walk into an emergency room with the spider still attached — probably because you’d get kicked out of the waiting room when you wave around a furry ball of spite-incarnate on your arm.

3. Scorpions glow when exposed to ultra-violet light, like black lights. Whether or not scorprions are fans of techno-themed rave parties are yet to be verified, but they are now that much worse if they are.

4. Mosquitos bite men more often than female, adults more often than children, and overweight people rather than underweight. Well, of course they do.

5. Killer bees are actually near relatives of honeybees and the honeybees’ much better branding. Killer bees actually inject less venom per sting than the honeybee. Yet, approximately 60 deaths per year are caused by killer bees because of their low patience threshold, readiness to attack en masse, leaves behind no witnesses, and sheer determination in chasing down victims for great distances.

Adapted from Don’t Get Bitten by Buck Tilton, M.S.

Goats are, in the academic opinion of this author, awesome-sauce. Granted, raising a goat in a studio apartment in the city may take more effort than keeping a goldfish alive (R.I.P. Captain Googly-eyes. You were the winds beneath my wings), so here’s some tips for you to raise your future herd.

1. Goats are not, as legends go, nature’s lawnmowers on hooves. To be sure, they’ll strip your bushes and plants clean, and leave behind a beautiful jumble of foliage-less bramble. What they won’t do is graze upon your lawn in an organized, mathematically-geometric manner. What they will do, instead, is nibble here and there on seemingly random whims.

2. Goats love to jump on things. Down from things. Up on top of things. Butt other goats to keep other goats from jumping atop things. Keep your goat entertained by having platforms to jump on/from/off/to/down. And seriously, what is cuter than seeing a kid hop about on your home-made crate-and-boxes jungle gym?

Just remember not to put your structures too close to your walls, or risk your goat busting out of their pen.

3. Goats have four stomachs. The rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. Of the four, the rumen is the primary stomach, acting as a fermentation vat where bacteria break down the nutrients in leaves, grass, and whatever else your goat consumed. It will be constantly in use. Thus, a good way to determine the health of your goat is to listen to the rumbling of the rumen — if you hear fewer than three rumbles a minute, it is a good idea to seek help immediately. Goats can’t survive long without a healthy rumen.

4. If you are starting out, always get at least two goats. Goats are herd animals, and having a companion is essential to their behavior. A single, lonely goat is going to stress the goat out, and a stressful goat is a troublesome goat who are more prone to disease and sickness.

Goats could get along with other animals, but goats like other goats best. Sheep and horses can keep a goat company, and a dog is a little bit iffy (especially if the dog spends a lot of time indoors). They don’t have to be the same breed. You can have a milking goat paired with a smaller, much more size-manageable goat like African Pygmies (this is your cue to Google “African Pygmies.” You are very welcome).

5. Goats can handle a night of freezing temperatures pretty well, but heat is not their specialty. A good idea is to have a spot in your goat’s pen that is always shaded.

A tree may seem like a natural choice (pun intended), but a goat will carefully, slowly, methodically nibble on the tree until the tree can’t survive. A trick is to wrap the tree trunk in material the goat can’t eat through (hardware cloth, for example). A goat may still get at the hanging branches, but with a large enough tree, it should be able to survive and adapt.

Adapted from City Goats, by Jennie P. Grant