If there’s one thing that is crucial when you’re learning to forage and coming across new wild edibles, it’s to use reliable resources in order to correctly identify them. Instagram, photographs and websites are all great inspiration, but when it comes to figuring out the fine details between different species (that could be the difference between life and death) I always suggest consulting at least 3 trusted resources to make sure you’ve really understood the species you’re looking at. I have relied heavily on books throughout my journey learning to forage over many years, and I still use books today. Part of the love of foraging for me is that there can really be no end to your curiosity as there is always more to learn and discover.
In this page I have collated my go-to, favourite foraging books and resources so that you can find what suits your level of knowledge and interest. I keep this page up-to-date and will continue to do so as I come across new resources. I’m always adding more to my growing collection – this is merely the highlights!
Of course nothing quite replaces getting to know the plants and fungi “in the flesh” so come along to one of my seasonal events or experience a private foraging walk with me if you’re interested in learning more deeply and engaging with wild edibles. Lastly, do sign up to my monthly email newsletter for seasonal tips, recipes and inspiration using the box at the bottom of this page.
Foraging Identification Guides
Great for beginners:
Hedgerow: River Cottage Handbook No.7 by John Wright
This would be the first book I would recommend to anyone starting out in foraging. Despite the name of the book, the remit isn’t limited to hedgerows, but includes plants found in woodlands, wetlands and more as well. John Wright is the River Cottage foraging expert and you may have seen him featured in the TV programs over the years. The introduction to this book is one of the most useful I’ve come across for its explanation of the legalities of foraging, and each entry has information about the plant’s features, distribution as well as suggestions for how to use it. John Wright’s writing style is pleasingly wry as well as being very informative.
Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook No.1 by John Wright
Another River Cottage Handbook by John Wright, this time dedicated to mushrooms, and with a slightly different format. This guide uses a key to establish a true ID, taking you systematically through the important factors when identifying fungi such as habitat, what they’re growing on, as well as their features and spore print colour. It’s a great resource for beginners and gets you into the habit of asking these crucial questions that are just as important to getting a correct ID as what the mushroom looks like.
Edible Seashore: River Cottage Handbook No.5 by John Wright
To make the trio complete, Edible Seashore is perfect for those who live near the sea or are on holiday and looking to try their hand at a bit of coastal foraging. Again, it covers the legalities of foraging in UK coastal locations as well as some handy tips and advice for what equipment you might need. The book covers everything from coastal plants and seaweeds to molluscs and shellfish.
Great for going deeper:
Edible Plants by Geoff Dann
Edible Plants is an incredibly in-depth encyclopaedia of wild edible goodies to follow up from his book Edible Mushrooms (see below). Geoff has spent the last 7 years pulling together this unequivocally comprehensive guide to over 400 species of plants and seaweeds. I make no exaggeration when I say this this is a forager’s BIBLE and has quickly become the first book I recommend to anyone getting interested in wild foods. I have already referred to it countless times since receiving it!
Edible Mushrooms by Geoff Dann
Another comprehensive guide by Geoff Dann, Edible Mushrooms is a valuable resource for a fungi forager. Mushrooms are categorised into their fungal families, so the layout is really easy to follow, and it’s great for getting yourself familiar with the different groups of fungi as well.
Mushrooms by Roger Philips
This book isn’t specific to edible mushrooms, although it lists whether each fungus is edible, non-edible or poisonous. I often flick through this when I come across something new and it’s really quite comprehensive with quality photographs of each mushroom and a short, quite technical description. The potential downsides of this book is that there is no key for identification so you need to have an idea of the mushroom family you’re looking for, it does miss a couple of quite important species (like the toxic Funeral Bell which is not particularly common, but worth knowing about when distinguishing it from the edible velvet shank), and I find the edibility information to be slightly outdated in some cases. I leave it in this list because it is still a worthwhile resource, but I would suggest using in conjunction with other resources (which I always suggest you should do anyway).
Wild Food Cookbooks
The New Wildcrafted Cuisine by Pascal Baudar
Pascal Baudar’s cookbook is all about how to harness and celebrate your local wild foods, adopting the concept of “terroir” used in the wine industry. Pascal’s preserves, pickles and ferments are great inspiration and make you think outside the box when it comes to your own foraged finds. He even makes his own plant-based cheeses with a wild twist. He has three books, this one and two others focused on fermentation and brewing, but this one is his most all-round and so makes the most sense for me to include in this list. If your on Instagram, I can highly recommend following @pascalbaudar for his travels, unique ideas and beautifully presented food.
Eat Your Weeds! by Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal
This collection of plant-based original recipes focuses in on around 20 of the most common wild edible plants and contains 90 handy and completely plant-based recipes to make the most of them. Each chapter focuses on one ingredient and gives a thorough introduction into how to identify it, any important cautions and warnings (potential lookalikes, sensitivities), its habitat, seasonality and growth, a bit of history, traditional medicinal uses, and general tips on how best to use it in cooking. Each ingredient chapter comes with a few different recipes that showcase the ingredient’s versatility rather than just one thing, and the recipes are really creative and unique. Ideas like “Creamy Hogatoni” using hogweed stems instead of pasta, “Elderberry Beans” with tortillas for a Mexican-inspired spread, and “Ground Elder Kimchi” are wonderfully original.
Wild and Sweet by Rachel Lambert
This brand-new book is all about desserts and all things sweet. Rachel uses wild ingredients from sloes & blackberries to Japanese knotweed to create delicious jams, bakes, cordials and more. I haven’t used it much yet, but I’m sure I’ll be trying many more of the recipes!
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