[This article is part of the “Foraging Resources” series]
Over the years, I’ve built up a collection of foraging and wild food books that have helped me gain a broad knowledge of edible species in the UK, Ireland, and the rest of Europe.
I find myself returning to these books time and again, always discovering something new – whether it’s new plants to forage, facts to check, or research to be done.
Whenever people ask me what is the best book for foraging and identifying edible plants, I find it difficult to recommend just one. Each book has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to cross-reference multiple field guides and reference books.
To help out my fellow foragers, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite foraging books. While it’s not a fully comprehensive list, it should provide a great starting point for anyone interested in wild food.
List of recommended general foraging books
River Cottage Handbook no7 Hedgerow – by John Wright
The Hedgerow foraging book is an entertaining and informative read that provides a comprehensive guide to foraging in the wild. Written by River Cottage’s foraging expert John Wright, this book is a delightful read, filled with engaging stories and fascinating facts.
Wright starts with the basics of foraging, including important topics such as conservation, safety, and the law. He also provides information on the equipment that you may need to bring along on your foraging expeditions.
The book is then divided into chapters based on the different types of wild edible plants that you are likely to find in hedgerows. Each chapter includes a photograph of the plant species, as well as information on distribution, habitat, season, and culinary uses.
In addition to the plant profiles, there are also chapters dedicated to poisonous lookalikes and simple, delicious recipes that use wild ingredients.
The Forager Handbook, a guide to the edible plants of Britain – by Miles Irving
The Forager Handbook is an essential and comprehensive reference guide to British wild edibles, perfect for those looking to expand their wild food knowledge.
With over 300 different species covered and organised into different plant families, the book provides detailed information on distribution, habitat, description, lookalikes, and uses/recipes. While not intended as a field identification guide (black & white pics), this well-researched book is a valuable resource to research your findings at home.
Food for free - by Richard Mabey
For over 40 years, Food for Free has been an essential reference guide for foragers, offering updated information and new photographs with each revision. With details on over 200 wild plant species, the book covers identification, collection, cooking, and usage.
It’s a valuable resource for serious wild food enthusiasts, although it’s best used at home for reference. For on-the-go foragers, a pocket-sized version is available for use during walks.
Collins Gem Food for free – by Richard Mabey
This is the ultimate foraging pocket guide for those interested in wild food. The book is compact and comprehensive, containing an introduction to foraging, practical information, and a wild food calendar at the start.
The book features over 100 edible plants and fungi, each accompanied by detailed illustrations and photographs for easy identification, as well as general information on how to use them.
The Forager's Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvests – by John Wright
Wright’s book, The Forager’s Calendar, is written in his signature style that feels like he’s taking you on a foraging expedition. The book starts with the basics of foraging, including conservation, safety, and equipment.
It’s then organized month by month, highlighting what wild food is available in the UK and where to find it. With photographs and detailed information for every plant, this seasonal foraging guide is perfect for both beginners and experts, written with infectious enthusiasm.
The Hedgerow Handbook – by Adele Nozedar
The Hedgerow Handbook is possibly the best foraging book for beginners out there. It celebrates the most common plants found in the hedgerow, providing beautiful watercolour illustrations and detailed information about folklore, medicinal uses and recipes for every entry listed in the directory.
The book features recipes for food, remedies, drinks and preserves, ensuring that every part of the plant is utilized to its fullest potential.
The Thrifty Forager - by Alys Fowler
Alys Fowler provides a unique perspective with this urban foraging book. The introduction provides a good overview of foraging and is followed by creative ideas for community gardens.
The second half of the book includes a handy seasonal chart and a plant directory with information on identification and edibility. The colourful layout and occasional recipe ideas make this an engaging urban foraging guide.
The Edible City: A Year of Wild Food – by John Rensten
This charming memoir of urban foraging is a delightful read for both city dwellers and nature enthusiasts. Organized by month, the author takes us on a journey through the plants and foods he found throughout the year in London.
Each chapter is filled with anecdotes, tips on identifying plants, and other useful information. To round out the experience, the author provides a selection of simple and delicious recipes, highlighting the diverse flavours of the plants he found.
While these wild food and foraging books are excellent resources, there are many more out there to discover. Keep in mind that identifying plants in the field can be challenging, so it’s also a good idea to do additional research on wildflower keys to use in combination with your foraging field guide.
Do you currently use any of the books mentioned above? Do you have any other personal recommendations for foraging books?