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Foraging Wild Edibles Books, My Top Picks

I’ve been rather frustrated with finding really good quality foraging books, wild edibles books, or wild harvesting books. I thought I would do a review of my top two favorites, [amazon_link id=”0976626608″ target=”_blank” locale=”US” ]The Forager’s Harvest [/amazon_link]and [amazon_link id=”0976626616″ target=”_blank” locale=”US” ]Nature’s Garden[/amazon_link], both by Samuel Thayer. If you’re interested in foraging and harvesting natures bounty, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of each of these books.

Many foraging books I’ve read have been written in a manner that seems like the author read a few books about foraging and wild edibles, then decided to write a book himself with all of his new found knowledge, and proceeded to rehash the same old stuff.

You’ve probably read a few of these books yourself: Lackluster and incomplete descriptions, a lack of quality sketches and photo’s, and far too frequently, completely wrong information. With a few of these books, I was lucky enough to realize that if I followed their advice, I would likely become sick.

So how in the world do you find good, information packed wild edibles books, filled with good pictures and descriptions, and be reasonably sure you won’t die?

It’s a work in progress for me, and if you think about it, we’re putting our safety and health in the hands of an author. That’s not to be taken lightly!

With Samuel Thayer’s books, I found a great start. I’ll share my thoughts with you, and I suggest if you’re into foraging wild edibles, that you grab a copy of each of these books. So let’s get to it!

Samuel Thayer, unlike the type of author I mentioned above, has made a lifestyle out of collecting natures bounty. There is not one wild edible recommended in his book that he has not eaten, cooked, canned, and preserved himself! This certainly lends some credibility and adds to the trust factor, don’t you think?

Lengthy, informative descriptions. Thayer went to great lengths taking his first hand knowledge and using it to provide very detailed descriptions of each edible wild plant, and goes so far as to describe differences at various growth stages as the seasons change. I always take my Thayer books into the field with me. I can sit and read the descriptions and study each plant, detail by detail.

Lots of photos! This goes hand in hand with the above. In the field I can compare plants in the woods with the photo’s in the books, again at various stages of growth.

Comparisons with evil, deadly look-alikes. There are many wild edibles that are yummy, nutritious, but also have an evil look-alike twin that will make you sick or kill you. Thayer compares these evil twins side by side with the yummy twin, so you can be sure of what you’re about to put in your mouth.

Cooking and preparing wild edibles. I always thought of eating wild edibles as plucking something out of the dirt and munching away right there in the field. Both “The Forager’s Harvest” and “Nature’s Garden” are chock full of recipes, preservation, and storage techniques. With these books, you can realistically use natures bounty just like your own grocery store!

Extras: Both of Thayer’s books include harvesting calendars that can help you understand what parts of wild plants are harvestable during what time of year. I often use these harvesting calenders to go out on the field and get a better idea of what each plant looks like during different stages of growth. This fact is not often mentioned in other, lesser books. Plants look different, and are edible or not edible, at different stages of growth!

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How I use these books. When I go out into the field to practice wild plant identification or to gather wild edibles, I’ll bring both of these books with me. They are the two books I trust the most.

I do have other foraging books, but even if I use those books, I go back to “The Forager’s Harvest” or “Nature’s Garden” to verify and double check any finds initially located using other books. Trust is a huge think, and with Thayer’s experience in harvesting and foraging, I do trust his information. Always double and triple check your finds. Cross reference based on info you trust!

What next? Grab a copy of these books. Even if you have other books, these two will become the cornerstone of your collection, and rightfully so. They are the best of the best. If you grab them through my links here, it’ll help fund some fun give-away’s I am planning for next year. Two birds with one stone, I love it! A win-win!

So get out there, learn to I.D. wild plants and edibles, and have fun using your new-found skills!

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4 Responses to Foraging Wild Edibles Books, My Top Picks

  1. Great to know! I will definitely look into both! Is one better than another to get first? Funds are limited at the moment…

    I've been studying edibles for the past three years. I've mainly used the Elias and Dykeman, which has been very helpful but sometimes the descriptions simply aren't that good. Don't get me wrong, it's been a wonderful resource but I feel that (regionally, at least) I've gotten almost all I can from it.

    Sorry for the tangent there. Thanks for the recommendations

    • Hey Ben, thanks for dropping by!

      I think you'd do fine picking hem up in either order. Either one can stand on it's own as an excellent book. The author doesn't assume you read one, to use the other, if that makes sense.

      These books have information covering edibles from all regions. Some will apply to your area, some won't. It's great to use these books as a supplement to your regional work, to get more in depth on some of the plants in your area.

      If you pick one of these up, let me know what you think!

  2. Thank you so much! I have been looking for a good wild edible book for a while!

    A few questions: what types of geography do these books cover, and do either list edible mushrooms?

    Thanks again, great site! Check mine!

    • Glad you liked the post John!

      These books don't cover wild mushrooms. That's a tricky topic all by itself. Many say to avoid mushrooms all together due to the risk involved. For me, that will be another area of study when I get to it. That seems an area that you want to get right, without mistakes.

      These books cover plants that you could find in most areas. I live in a chaparral biome towards the west coast, which has pretty unique plant base, and I'd say around half of what is listed in these books apply to my area. If you live in the midwest or east coast, these books would be even better, as most of the plants could probably be found there.

      To me, the best part of these books is I am confident of the information in them. They should not be the only books you use, but are a great foundation and cross reference for your library.

      Good luck!

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