Is a Minnesota blogger peddling a toxic cookbook?

Johnna Holmgren makes her living, in part, from posts like this.

Highly curated shots of happy, healthy folks living their best lives in the Minnesota woods.

She’s a blogger, artist, heavy Instagrammer and forager. That last hat has turned her into a cookbook author, too.

And not a particularly great cookbook creator, as Buzzfeed points out.

Reviews for her “Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen” are riddled with warnings.

Turns out it takes some expertise to cook with raw wild mushrooms and berries.

Here’s a selection of what Amazon.com users had to say:

“As a foraging chef I have to go with a big old NO on this one. I really wanted to like this book but I simply can’t. I have a foraging bakery. As a botanist turned Sourdough baker I will tell you there are a number of mistakes in this book. Foraging takes great knowledge and can make people very sick if you grab the wrong plant. Foraging takes great knowledge and patience. From the mushroom recipes to the raw elderberry recipes in this book……….. come on.”

“The recipe for raw morels dipped in chocolate is criminally bad, irresponsible advice”

“Dangerously bad recipes. Foraging communities are shocked at the information in this book. The recipes were obviously not tested before publication.”

So, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure cookbook, in a sense.

To her credit, Holmgren’s Fox Meets Bear blog does carry this warning on the bottom of its homepage:

“While I strive to be 100% accurate, it is solely up to the reader to ensure proper plant identification. Some wild plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. I am not a health professional, medical doctor, nor a nutritionist. It is up to the reader to verify nutritional information and health benefits with qualified professionals for all edible plants listed in this website and any published content.”

Update (Aug. 10, 2018): Rodale Books, the publisher of the cookbook, said in a statement it is stopping production and distribution of “Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen” and offering refunds to those who bought a copy.

“In light of our review of these concerns, and because of our dedication to wellness, Rodale Books and Johnna Holmgren have decided to discontinue the publication and promotion of the book. We are encouraging retailers to return their stock, and we are offering a full refund to consumers who have purchased the book.”

(h/t Tracy Mumford)

  • Noelle
  • Megan

    In the “Minnesota woods”? Lolololol. She lives in a suburb of St. Paul.

  • Peter Tobias

    Thanks for the warning of the book.

  • KTFoley

    I’m guessing that people who do forage don’t need a recipe that sounds like a tremendous waste of morels, while people who don’t forage don’t need this book so much as a mycology course and an experienced mentor.

    This site from a Minnesota hunter / fisher / forager seems a heck of a lot more reliable:
    https://youhavetocookitright.com/

  • Barton

    I adore morels, and I adore chocolate. Together? that sounds horrible. But is there some health concern that I’m missing? The reviewer makes it sound like it should be obvious to all, so what is “irresponsible” about it? (again, besides the obvious “eww” factor)

    • helena

      Not an expert, but you’re supposed to cook morels before eating. It gets rid of some kind of mild toxin.

    • KTFoley

      Irresponsible would be assuming that I can differentiate between edible wild foods and their toxic lookalikes, without the proper education and expert guidance right at hand when I gather them.

      Irresponsible would also be expecting people who buy the cookbook would notice & heed a warning that displays only on the author’s website.

    • Megan K

      Morels are toxic raw, and she’s recommending eating them raw. The toxin is neutralized in cooking.

  • KTFoley