Any number of things can go wrong when you forage for wild food. Especially mushrooms. Eat the wrong mushroom and you could be looking at liver failure, brain damage, or death. It’s not pretty and it’s also chief among the reasons most people don’t forage for their fungi. The Death Cap mushroom killed 17 people in Northern California last year alone.
This week, the potential dangers of foraging prompted the recall of the recently published cookbook called Tales From A Forager’s Kitchen. Written by blogger and Instagram influencer Johnna Holmgren, a.k.a. Fox Meets Bear, Tales From A Forager’s Kitchen promised to be a field guide to foraging and all things wild food, including recipes for your newly dug-up morels and freshly plucked berries. The self-described “naturer and nurturer” has quite a large following (132,000 people) and is known for lush photos of her life in the woods with her chalk artist husband (for real), kids, and animals.
Her earthy aesthetic and posts about healthy, natural living fall somewhere between Fitness Instagram and Vegan Instagram. But there’s no mention on any of her social media about qualifications—no medical degree, no certificates, nothing to explain why people should be listening to her advice on doing something as potentially dangerous as eating wild food.
So perhaps it’s unsurprising that after readers and experts raised concerns about the potential dangers of taking advice from someone whose only qualification seems to be that a lot of people follow her on social media (specifically her advice on eating un-leached acorns and raw morels), Holgrem’s publisher, Rodale, pulled books from shelves and offered full refunds to people who had already purchased the volume.
They also released a statement, saying:
Rodale Books and our author Johnna Holmgren take very seriously the concerns expressed by readers regarding the preparation and cooking of recipes with raw ingredients (mushrooms and elderberries) that are contained in her recently published TALES FROM A FORAGER’S KITCHEN. 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.
Though the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Rodale pages have all been removed, Goodreads still has a description, which promises readers that they will “Connect with the earth and explore the outdoors with this enchanting cookbook.”
As of August 14, there are no more promo photos of the book on Holmgren’s Instagram—though there is one post, from July 29, that mentions a quiche recipe you can find on page 53. All other mentions of her book have seemingly been removed, though she did repost her publisher’s statement regarding the removal of the book from stores on her blog.
Maybe there’s a lesson in all of this. Something along the lines of: don’t believe everything you see on social media. Or maybe: just because someone knows how to take pretty pictures doesn’t mean they know how to remove tannins from acorn flour. We’re just spitballing here. At the very least, we know one thing: if you’re going to do something like forage for wild food, make sure you learn from someone who has studied botany.