Cornucopia II: A Source Book of Edible Plants
by Stephen Facciola
Kampong Publications, 1870 Sunrise Drive, Vista, CA 92084.
Cornucopia II is a new edition of the highly regarded Cornucopia book published in 1990. It is improved in a number of ways. The new single index is easy to use and seems to be pretty adequate on species and varieties. The comments on exotic plants, in my sampling, have been enhanced. And of course the references to nursery sources have been brought up to date.
This is the most comprehensive reference book we have in this field, listing (1) about 3000 species of plants that produce human edibles, (2) available varieties of about 125 popular fruit and vegetable crops, (3) a couple of thousand plant sources, mostly nurseries, and (4) an appendix that just lists plants in categories such as chocolate substitutes, fermentation product substrates, flavorings, food wrappers, food dyes, gums, honey plants, piths, etc. The first two groups are well cross-referenced with the plant sources. The appendix provides a good starting point for a variety of possible areas of interest.
Facciola is primarily oriented to the problem of finding the best crops for feeding the human race. He gives nice descriptions of the varieties and considerably better descriptions of the food uses to which people put exotic species than other reference books. He also keeps practical considerations in mind, and features varieties that are carried by the nurseries. Many other varieties are usually around but to get them you would go a chapter meeting and find somebody who had special plants and might give you a scion. There is not room in this book for essentially any taxonomic or cultural data, and of course it is not a picture book.
I have used the first edition of Cornucopia since it came out and have found it the best source for certain kinds of information. This edition is definitely better and easier to use. Much of our work on exotic fruits has produced things that are nutritious and taste good but are not designed to be eaten out of hand like an apple. We need to look at ways of presenting fruit to the consumer that will probably involve mixing elements from several kinds of edibles into a bar or a drink or baked into a pastry or whatever. I think the availability of Cornucopia II cannot help but stimulate people to think in these directions.
Cornucopia II is a very large and heavy, perfect-bound paperback so the buyer would be advised to open at the center and flatten the pages each way, a few at a time, before starting to read at the beginning.