Best foraging books and field guides in the UK and Ireland

Resources: General foraging books
Recommended books and field guides on edible wild plants and foraging. These resources are aimed to both amateur foragers and wild food experts.

Table of Contents

[This article is part of the “Foraging Resources”  series]

I have collected a good number of wild food and foraging books over the years. They helped me to attain a broad knowledge of the edible species of plants and fungi available in the UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe.

I’ve returned to these books over and over again because there is always something new to learn; plants to discover, facts to check and research to be done.

People keep asking what is the best book for foraging and identifying edible plants. Actually, there are so many out there to choose from.

One foraging book would lack something that another book would have, so we foragers need to constantly cross-reference one foraging field guide with another reference book.

I have composed a list of books about foraging for wild food. This collection is not fully comprehensive but it’s more than enough to get you started.

List of recommended general foraging books

Book: River Cottage Handbook no7 Hedgerow - John Wright

River Cottage Handbook no7 Hedgerow – by John Wright

The Hedgerow foraging book is a really entertaining read. This useful guide is full of interesting facts and entertaining anecdotes from River Cottage’s foraging expert John Wright.

First, he touches on the basics of foraging. Subjects such as conservation, safety, the law, and some equipment you may need.

Then he guides us through the wild edible plants you are likely to find in the hedgerows and other habitats, providing a photograph of the plant species and information on distribution, habitat, season and culinary uses.

There is also an additional chapter dedicated to poisonous lookalikes and another one for simple and delicious recipes.

Book: The Forager Handbook - Miles Irving

The Forager Handbook, a guide to the edible plants of Britain – by Miles Irving

A detailed and comprehensive reference guide to British wild edibles, The Forager Handbook is one of the essentials for anybody who wishes to expand wild food knowledge on an advanced level.

The book is very informative and well researched; 400 pages long covering more than 300 different species and organised into different plant families. Every plant includes information on distribution, habitat, description, lookalikes and uses / recipes.

I don’t think Miles Irving intended this to be a field ID guide (the book is heavy and photographs are in black & white), but this inspirational book is the perfect companion to research your findings at home.

Book: Food for free - Richard Mabey

Food for free - by Richard Mabey

This classic foraging guide has been around for over 40 years, periodically revised with new photographs and updated information.

Food for free is a reference book packed with information on identifying, collecting, cooking and using over 200 different plant species that can be picked in the wild.

This is a book for serious wild food enthusiasts and it’s best used at home for reference. Alternatively, there is a pocket sized version which you can refer to it during your foraging walks.

Book: Food For Free (Collins Gem Pocket) - Richard Mabey

Collins Gem Food for free – by Richard Mabey

A good complement to the original Food for Free, this is the best foraging pocket guide for aspiring foragers out there. It literally fits in your pocket and is fully comprehensive.

The book includes an introduction to foraging, some practical information and a wild food calendar at the beginning.

The main content focuses on over 100 edible plants and fungi you can find in the wild. It’s got both illustrations and photographs for each species and general information to help you identify and use them.

Book: Forager's Calendar - John Wright

The Forager's Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvests – by John Wright

Just like any other Wright’s book, The Forager’s Calendar is fantastic. His style feels as if he is talking to you on a foraging expedition that you are enjoying with him.

At the beginning of the book we learn about the basics; conservation notes, the law, safety advice and the equipment you may need.

The book is laid out month by month telling us what to pick and where to find any wild food available in the UK. Every plant is illustrated with photographs and detailed information about the species.

This seasonal foraging guide is written with infectious enthusiasm and is an engaging read, great for beginners and expert foragers alike.

Book: The Hedgerow Handbook - Adele Nozedar

The Hedgerow Handbook – by Adele Nozedar

Possibly the best foraging book for beginners, The Hedgerow Handbook is an inspiration for nature lovers to celebrate the most common plants found in the hedgerow.

Every entry listed in the directory includes beautiful watercolour illustrations to help you identify each plant species, along with information about folklore, medicinal uses and recipes.

Those recipes include food, remedies, drinks and preserves, making the best of every part of the plant that is featured.

Book: The thrifty forager - Alys fowler

The Thrifty Forager - by Alys Fowler

Taking a fresh look at foraging, this recommendation could be considered a sort of urban foraging book. It’s very informative and uses a bubbly writing style.

The first part of the book is an introduction to foraging and is followed, a bit randomly, by inspirational community garden ideas.

The second half starts with a very useful seasonal chart that introduces a plant directory packed with useful information such as identification features and edibility of the plant species.

This part is oriented as an urban foraging guide and it’s well laid out with large colour photographs and – occasionally – some recipe ideas.

Book: The Edible City - John Rensten

The Edible City: A Year of Wild Food – by John Rensten

An entertaining and informative urban foraging book. It’s actually a personal memoir highlighting the plants the author used to find in London at different times of the year .

The book is informative, accessible to beginners and organised into months. Each month comes with inspiring memories and tips to identify the different plants.

This urban foraging book is beautifully illustrated and includes simple recipes to give you some ideas on what you can do with the plants you find.

Conclussion

Those are the wild food and foraging books I recommend, but this is not an exhaustive list. Many foragers get quickly discouraged because this kind of books doesn’t usually provide a great help to plant identification, so I would also recommend to do some research on wildflower keys to use in conjunction with any foraging field guide.

Do you use any of these foraging books?

Have you got any other personal recommendation?

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Alvaro Docio

Alvaro Docio

I am the person behind British Local Food. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

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