Top 5 Foraging and Wild Edible Plant Books
A few years ago I started doing a lot of research into edible wild plants and became really frustrated with most of the books out there. Most of them had pretty pictures, but they didn’t really tell me exactly what part of the plant was edible, how to cook with it, or how to store what I foraged. I also live in a harsh northern climate (63 day growing season and 6 months of snow) and a lot of books seemed to focus on the berries, etc. that grow in more mild areas. After many library trips, hours on the internet, and spending way more money than I would like to admit on books, I have narrowed down my favorites to just a handful with one that really stands out:
Must Have for Every Prepper and Survivalist: “The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide” by Linda Runyon.
The information contained in this book is invaluable and revolutionized the way I think about food. The author is an R.N. who actually lived off of the land for 13 years in upstate New York (a very harsh climate) with no electricity, indoor plumbing, or running water. Her book is very practical; for instance, instead of just telling you pine needles are edible, she tells you how to actually use them in your cooking, how to store them, and is the only book I know of that gives you a nutritional breakdown including calorie counts and the amount of protein, fat, calcium, etc. in the various plants. With the nutritional tables you can see how living off of foraged food can be both more efficient and more nutritious than what we buy in the grocery stores.
Linda covers about 50 plants that grow just about everywhere, many of which I truly just thought of as weeds, like tumbleweed. The only downside to the book is it does not have the best pictures, but if you use the book in conjunction with her “Wild Food Identification Guide”, “Wild Food Cards” or another plant identification guide suitable for your area you will be amazed by how much food is all around you!
“Backyard Medicine” by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal.This book covers how to use over 50 wild herbs to treat a variety of ailments and features fantastic photographs. It teaches you how to make teas, bath, tinctures, syrups, poultices, etc. with the various parts of each plant. The author is European so a few of the plants aren’t commonly found in the U.S., but the vast majority (90% or so) are readily available and easily found.
These are useful books that are certainly worth owning, but are limited in their scope in one way or another.
“Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate” by John Kallas, PhD. Great book with useful, beautiful photos. The book only covers 16 “greens”, but for those 16 plants you would be hard pressed to find better combination of descriptions, useful preparation ideas, and photographs for identification.
“A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants” by Samuel Thayer. This is a fantastic book with wonderful photos and great information, the downside is a lot of the plants can only be found in more mild, humid regions, like Maryland or parts of Oregon.
“Stalking the Wild Asparagus” by Euell Gibbons. Covers one man’s practical experiences with a wide range of plants, but does not really have any pictures or plant identification information, so you will need to pair it with a good plant identification guide.