There are so many excellent resources in the realm of edible wild plants, you could easily spend the rest of your life wading through them all and barely make a dent! At the same time, rest assured that for every classic, there are dozens of duds out there filled with careless mistakes, poor research, and occasionally egregious and downright dangerous information.
With that in mind, the following list covers the books and websites on foraging, plant identification, herbalism, and forest gardening/tending the wild that I refer back to the most often. This is by no means extensive, and I’m sure I will continue to add to the list over the years.
When it comes to references, I am of the opinion that you can never have too many! The more trusted sources you have for cross-referencing, the better. But rather than trying to pick up all of these at once, you’d be much better off getting to know one or two at a time.
I consider the works of Thayer and Kallas to be required reading for all of North America, so those are great places to start. Also look into the resources that are specific to your region – beyond books, many state and regional universities have excellent online databases. And when you’re ready to dig deeper into the world of plant families, Elpel’s Botany in a Day is absolutely indispensable.
(Note that many of the book links provided here are Amazon affiliate links, which means that Amazon will send me a few pennies if you click through and make a purchase. While I would always encourage you to visit your local library or bookstore first, I know that some of these resources are not readily available in many places. These links are a simple way to support my work at no additional cost to you.)
· Thayer, Samuel. The Forager’s Harvest Series:
Hear my interview with Sam Thayer in episode 35 of the podcast: ‘Foraging For a Future’
· Kallas, John. Edible Wild Plants: Wild Food from Dirt to Plate (2010). Gibbs Smith.
· Elpel, Thomas J.
o Foraging the Mountain West (2014). HOPS Press.
Check out my conversation with Tom Elpel in episode 55 of the podcast: ‘Ecological Awareness & the Wildlife Web’
· The Timber Press Regional Foraging Series:
o Deur, Douglas. Pacific Northwest Foraging (2014).
o Lowry, Judith Larner. California Foraging (2014).
o Meredith, Leda. Northeast Foraging (2014).
o Rose, Lisa M. Midwest Foraging (2015).
o Bennett, Chris. Southeast Foraging (2015).
o Slattery, John. Southwest Foraging (2016).
o Wiles, Briana. Mountain States Foraging (2016).
· Elias, Thomas S. & Dykeman, Peter A. Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods (1982). Sterling Publishing Co.
· Pell, Susan K & Angell, Bobbi. A Botanist’s Vocabulary (2016). Timber Press.
· Zachos, Ellen. Backyard Foraging (2013). Storey Publishing.
· Easley, Thomas & Horne, Steven. The Modern Herbal Dispensatory (2016). North Atlantic Books.
· Elliott, Doug. Wildwoods Wisdom: Encounters with the Natural World (1992). Paragon House.
· Anderson, M. Kat. Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources (2005). University of California Press.
· Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (2015). Milkweed Editions.
· Martyn, Steven. The Sacred Gardener twin volumes:
Listen to my interview with Steven Martyn in episode 30 of the podcast: ‘Sacred Land Use & the Intuitive Path’
· Orion, Tao. Beyond the War on Invasive Species (2015). Chelsea Green Publishing.
Hear my conversation with Tao Orion in episode 44 of the podcast: ‘Invasive Species, Restoration & Ecological Literacy’
· Eat the Weeds – Green Deane (Florida). eattheweeds.com/
· Learn Your Land – Adam Haritan (Pennsylvania). learnyourland.com/
Check out my conversation with Adam Haritan in episode 55 of the podcast: ‘Reading Your Body, Reading the Land’
· Eat the Invaders – Joe Roman (New York). eattheinvaders.org/
· NoMI Foraging – Clay Bowers (Michigan). nomiforager.com/
· Blood and Spicebush – Rebecca Beyer (North Carolina & Appalachia). bloodandspicebush.com/
Hear my interview with Becky Beyer in episode 39 of the podcast: ‘Appalachian Folk Magic, Foraging & Witchcraft’
· Of Sedge and Salt – Kelly Moody (California & the West). ofsedgeandsalt.com/
Listen to my conversation with Kelly Moody in episode 59 of the podcast: ‘Home is Where the Truck is Parked’
· Integrated Taxonomic Information System – ITIS. itis.gov/
· PLANTS Database – Natural Resources Conservation Service. plants.usda.gov/
· Plant Finder – Missouri Botanical Garden. missouribotanicalgarden.org/
· Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – University of Texas at Austin. wildflower.org/
· PFAF Database – Plants for a Future. pfaf.org/
· National Invasive Species Information Center – U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. invasivespeciesinfo.gov/
“Whew, that’s a lot to take in! How do I put all of this together?”
Great question! This list is essentially the bibliography to my 12-week online course, entitled Foraging North America. That means I’ve already combed through all of these resources over many years and distilled them into one comprehensive introduction to the botany, ecology, and taxonomy of the edible wild plants of the United States and Canada.
When you’re ready to get serious about foraging and learn the foundational framework that connects all plants on Earth in a meaningful way, check out Foraging North America - you can download the first lesson FREE by entering your email address below.