"Stalking the Wild Asparagus" by Ewell Gibbons

"Stalking the Wild Asparagus" by Ewell Gibbons

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Euell Gibbons’ most popular book taught the art of foraging for wild edible and nutritious plants to the new back-to-the-landers and to others exploring alternative economic pursuits and foodways.The outdoorsman Gibbons produced a number of influential works which included Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop and Stalking the Healthful Herbs. These fed into the new health food movement as well as the back-to-nature movement.
“We made our own recipe book... and foraged for things. We loved the idea of stalking the wild asparagus.”—Ruth, a 1970s farm commune member, interview, 2011
On their farm commune in upstate New York in the early 1970s, Ruth, her husband Steve and their fellow communards had to learn to use many new tools as they applied methods of food production, preparation, and preservation learned from alternative sources such as Mother Earth News, their food co-op’s cookbook, and their farming neighbors in the area. They would often buy their tools at second hand shops, farm sales, and yard sales in the area. The Mason jars, canning funnels (used to fill the Mason jars with food to be preserved (by canning), apple slicers, and books, such as Stalking the Wild Asparagus, were all tools new, but necessary to the new farmers and foragers of the 1970s and thereafter.
“Coming out of the 1960s, we were concerned about the war, where the country was going... [By] going to the farm, we would be accountable and have responsibility for our lives, for the way that we lived.... We had the Whole Earth Catalog, Mother Earth News. Reduce, reuse, recycle. We learned from the farm community... Be self-sufficient, live off the land... My whole life [on the commune] revolved around food.... We had a three-acre garden... canning and freezing...600 quarts of tomatoes , three 20 ft. freezers full [of] corn, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, carrots. “—Ruth, a 1970s farm commune member, interview, 2011
During the 1960s and 1970s, as waves of cultural and political change swept through American society, food became a tool of resistance, consciousness-raising, and self-expression. Embracing the motto “You are what you eat,” hippies, feminists, religious seekers, ethnic nationalists, and antiwar and civil rights activists rejected mass-marketed, mass-produced food, which they termed “slave” food, “corporate” food, and “white-bread,” as symbols of the establishment they rallied against. They questioned how the food Americans ate was produced, prepared, and consumed and advocated new models of food production and new diets. A major part of these movements were served, in the 1970s and forward, by the “back-to-the-landers,” those who left their mostly middle class or privileged lives to live “off the grid,” to feed themselves, to farm, to cook, to forage, to raise animals, to live self-sufficiently.
Object Name
date made
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
glue (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 4 1/4 in x 3/4 in; 17.78 cm x 10.795 cm x 1.905 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Ruth McCully
Food Culture
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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