Friday, July 17, 2009

Keeping up with the Crowes

Native Edible Plants of New Zealand
Andrew Crowe
(Hodder & Stoughton, 1990)

A Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand
Andrew Crowe
(Penguin, 2004)

I've tried to figure out exactly which editions and reprints of this classic and comprehensive text were brought out when, and by who, but failed miserably. Suffice to say that since it first appeared in 1981 it's been printed and reprinted many times, by at least three different publishing houses. (And deservedly!)

I don't have the very first edition, which is from the 80s, but I do have the second and third editions (above), and I've been interested to compare them.

Native Edible Plants of New Zealand - the big yellow one - is now out of print, but still available in some libraries I think, and also second hand.

A Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand has replaced it and is available widely in many bookshops.

Is it worth buying this newest edition if you can?

Mostly the information is identical between the editions, but there are small updates here and there to taxonomy and names - both Maori and European. Some of the more major differences appear in the fungus section. If you're particularly interested in foraging for mushrooms, I should think the new edition is worth it. In particular, the list of fungus that was known, named and used by early Maori has been lengthened.

One major difference between the older edition and the newest is size. If you want something small and handy for carrying around with you, then the newer Field Guide fits the bill. It also has a useful water-and-mud-proof cover!

The downsizing is, however, at the expense of the interesting facts about what the botanical names of the different plants mean - which is one of the features I love in the older edition.

The photographs and drawings in both editions are the same. They're great, but as with any foraging book - it's good to have more than one source of images in order to cross reference and more easily identify the plants you're after.

Still - if you're in New Zealand and can own only one foraging book - it should probably be one or other of these lovelies.