EAT THE BEACH :- A GUIDE TO THE EDIBLE SEASHORE - Book Review

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TeeDee

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Nov 6, 2008
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BOOK REVIEW. By TeeDee




EAT THE BEACH :- A GUIDE TO THE EDIBLE SEASHORE.

SHELLFISH-SEAWEED-PLANTS-FISH-RECIPES.


COASTAL SURVIVAL HANDBOOK No.1


by Fraser Christian







Eat the Beach is the 1st in a series of books presented by Fraser Christian from Coastal Survival , the Book itself in A5 paperback format as has 86 pageswith excellent full colur photographs throughout of the subject matter , the inclusion of the Colour photos do the topic they cover true justice as only so much can be detailed in Black & White drawings or Photographs. The useful pocket sized guide contains 52 full colour photographs which is rare in field guides at the self produced end of the market.
The book is broken down into some distinct topics:-

SAFETY WHEN FORAGING
TIDES AND WEATHER INFLUENCES
ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT
ROD AND LINE FISHING FOR FOOD
EDIBLE PLANTS
SEAWEEDS
SHELL FISH
RECIPES



In my mind the book is a decent entry level guide to Coastal foraging , its handy size and weight means it can fit into a trouser or jacket pocket and go unnoticed , although the book is no heavyweight in terms of text what is there would appear to be the simplified crystallisation of experience and knowledge that Fraser has gathered over the years. The colour Photographs are a wonderful inclusion and well shot , the vibrancy and fresh look of the flora and fauna jump out and are sufficiently detailed enough for the reader to make a positive ID of plant or animal.
The various sections detailing safety , weather & tides , essential equipment and beach casting are essentially brief and too the point , ideal as an entry level of information but further down the road I'd like to see Fraser address these topic in greater depth with more detail concerned to the relevant aspects. As someone who would like to aspire to fish from the beach ( and I live right on the coast! ) a full introduction to Various fishing methods ,equipment , where and when to cast , what bait & rig to use for what fish.
A few sketch diagrams detailing how to set up a rod ,reel and rig would also be beneficial I feel to illustrate in what order the rod is set up although there is text covering the various parts and terminology a sketch would have embellished the book somewhat.

Several pages are then dedicated to what Fish you may catch along the UK coastline and these include Dogfish , Mackerel ,Whiting , Plaice , Cod, Bass ,Rays all presented in beautiful colour Photographs , again the Text regarding each fish is brief but to the point , this is after all primarily a field guide to ID , as long as one can identify the Fish in question I consider that suffice and to the point so after each photograph is concise text not long rambiling waffle.

I would have liked to have seen a colour photo introduction of how to gut and fillet both Flat fish such as Plaice and Rays and how that differs from gutting and preparing fish such as Dogfish or Mackerel , sadly that has been omitted as an inclusion but would I feel been a worthy element to a field guide.
The section on Edible Plants and Use is useful as it covers specifically Coastal habitat plants in one guide, the guide covers Sea Kale , Wild Cabbage , Sea Beet , Wild Carrot , Wild Leeks , Horseradish ,Sea Orache , Rock Samphire , Blackthorn ,Rose Hips ,Silver Weed , and a few others which are less habitat specific.
By covering the plants along with the fish and methods to procure them you have a useful way to source both meat and veg from the same location , so if your having an impromtu cook up on the beach and have bagged a fishy friend you should also have a guide that allows you to locate some greens and garnish to compliment the meal.

No guide specific to Coastal Foraging would be complete without a Guide to the various Seaweeds that are abundant along our Coastline, to this end Frasers book doesn't disappoint , the sea weeds covered include Lava , Sea lettuce , Dulse , Irish / Carrregeen Moss , Kelp and Sugar Wrack once again along with full colour plates to assist with the Identifcation of the Seaweed.
For the Coastal Forager getting to know and being comfortable using Seaweed is a very good idea indeed , an abundant and diverse food stuff that is self replenshing , easy to harvest , few animal grazers and can be collected whilst one is looking for Shellfish on a coastal bimble is well worthwhile getting know and be skilled in its use.

The next section covers Shellfish , again a mostly easy to gather food stuff that seems to be slighlty out of fashion with UK current food trends. The chapter intially starts by covering the various larger crustaceans inculding , Brown Crab , Spide Crab , Velvet Swimmer ,Common Shore Crab and Lobster ( To the rear of the book Fraser also covers the best way to prepare and cook Crab detailing the 'Dead Mans Fingers' ).

Smaller, easier to catch shellfish are then covered , and once more detailed in beautiful colour plates , these include Mussels , Limpets ,Winkles ,Whelks, Clams , Razor Clams ,Oysters and Cockles. Again a brevity of text is used that is concise but deliberate and required , too much additinal information is not needed so the information is kept tight and clean.
The last section of the book covers Cooking Methods and Recipes ,along with a few more interesting sections on how to create and make preserved and flavour enhanced fish using a field expedient smoker unit that could be made from scratch out of junk found on the Beach. Fraser covers both the Cold Smoking and Hot smoking methods.

I again feel a sketch or better still photograph would have enhanced this section somewhat to illustrate the two different smoking methods and show the process in the 1st person.
So to conclude , the book is more of a brief field guide which is no bad thing to me , a light weight high quality field guid with colour photographs is far more likely to be with you when you need it rather than left on a shelf at home. The inclusion of those Colour Photographs really do the subject matter justice , and clearly assist in the "find-it,see-it,cook-it,eat-it" philosophy of this book.

I'm of the mind that this book would be an excellent companion to have after booking a day or two's instruction on Frasers various Coastal Survival bushcraft courses , it would be a useful back up and refresher of what has been covered from group tuition.

So overall a good little book , useful to have and covering a specific habitat and range or resources for an interested forager who needs instruction on 'eating the beach'.
I look forward to reading further works from Fraser and I appreciate that the associated costs and risk of producing a minority interest fieldguide is a difficult task indeed , So many thanks to Fraser for producing something that he has a passion for teaching and living.
More teaching from Fraser Can be found here on his Youtube Channel:-

http://www.youtube.com/user/WildForage?feature=watch



The handbook is available from this website http://www.wildforage.co.uk/
Paperback perfectly bound A5 size. 86 pages with colour photos
Order (signed) copy. £14:99 + £2:50 UK shipping.
Please contact us by - E-mail: info@wildforage.co.uk Tel: Tel: 07702 104644

Fraser Christian.
Fraser Christian grew up in the South Cotswold and as a young boy enjoyed the surrounding countryside and the wilder parts of the UK. As a Boy Scout he even reached the summit of Ben Nevis in Scotland, the highest peak in the UK and also climbed England’s Scafell Pike in the Lake District. Fraser’s other interests and achievements include conservation, self-sufficiency, backwoods cookery and personal survival techniques. The later includes fishing, shooting and trapping. In addition to this he has learnt about shelter building and wild-food foraging inspiration came from legends such as John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman and his book “The SAS survival Handbook”.

Upon Leaving School, Fraser embarked on a college course in catering and worked towards becoming a chef. He left college with the highest exam result of any student and ranked in the top ten in the country and received a honours distinction in catering. Whilst at college studying nutrients he discovered the secret healing properties of herbs and that Herbs are not only very good for the digestive system, but also the well being of the whole body. Since then he has continued exploring herbal benefits and the vast range of wild foods and medicines. Environmental issues lay close to his heart. With his wealth of knowledge Fraser would love to share his views about the environment and the oceans, especially where fishing is concerned.
Fraser also hosted and contributed to the fish events at River Cottage HQ owned by the famous TV personality and chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on the Devon and Dorset border.
As a humanitarian Fraser believes that self-sufficiency is the key to a balanced mind and allows release from responsibilities of society and others that provide basic human requirements that is key to self-preservation and existence. Fishing is now the medium he works most closely with and is aiming to educate people on how they can protect the world’s marine environment and its rich and diverse sources of food and teach them to be able to collect it, catch it, prepare it, cook it and enjoy it.
 

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