Guides

The information presented in Foraging Adventures could not exist without the many excellent wild plant and fungi guides now available. Here I share an (ever-expanding) list of those guides and how they have influenced me.

I am always happy to hear recommendations from others about guides they have found useful. Please feel free to share in the comments section below:

Plants

Forager handbook

This is an essential book for any serious forager. For some time I had been looking for a wild food guide that didn’t just list the ‘popular’ species, blackberries, sloes, dandelion etc. but was an in depth account of the edible attributes of as many of our wild plants as possible. This is the only book i’ve found that meets that requirement. The sheer depth of knowledge it contains is staggering, if you want to know if some obscure leaf you have found is edible, this is the place to look. It has sensible hazard and lookalike precautions that should be read carefully. It also contains recipes, medicinal uses and history for most of the species. If it has a down-side, it is that the pictures are in black and white and not always immediately clear which plant in the text they refer to.

Wild flower key

This is the guide used by scientists in the field for ID purposes. It can, therefore, take some getting used to the abbreviation and the format of how the key works. It is, however, invaluable for helping to confirm unknown species. My only gripe is that listings of poisonous and edible for plant varieties aren’t very consistent, in that some majorly poisonous species are identified as such, other less ones are not. Therefore, use this to ID, but other wild food specific guides to check edibility.

Hedgerow

Part of the highly recommended River Cottage Handbook range, John Wright is not only an authority on all things wild food, both plants and fungi, he is also able to make an identification guide as enjoyable to read as a good novel. This book is another essential guide for the forager, it will provide endlessly fascinating and funny information about plant edibility, folklore, history, and poisons. The photos are very clear, as are the identification features and possible confusions with poisonous species, the latter being also well described. This book gave me more foraging confidence than any other, read it and re-read it and you will be well prepared to forage safely and enjoyably.

Food for Free

Most people who have any interest in foraging will be aware of this classic book. It is deserving of its reputation and now exists in many forms, with photographic or illustrated versions available . Richard Mabey has an encyclopaedic knowledge of wild plants, their identification, culinary virtues, history and folklore. One issue I have with it is that the latest version I looked at had still not updated the entry on Comfrey (Symphytum officinale), which is now not recommended for consumption to the presence of chemicals that can be cancer causing and toxic to the liver. Moreover, there is not enough information on poisonous lookalikes to make me feel confident were I to use it as my only guide. Nevertheless, it has details on plants and their uses that cannot be found anywhere else.

Fungi

R Phillips

This is a true masterpiece, listing pretty much every species of fungus you are ever likely to find in Britain. The later guide is photographic, and the images are truly excellent. So good that even flicking through the guide can quickly bring you to possible species that your specimen may be (though you still need to check its features thoroughly!). If that wasn’t enough, the edibility of all species is presented. If you want to forage for muchrooms with confidence you will need this book.

J Wright Mushrooms

Another superb River Cottage Handbook, and again John Wright writes in such a captivating fashion that it can be read from cover to cover. With comprehesive ID features, clear photographs and, crucially, very clear identification and descriptions of poisonous lookalikes it is another essential text. This book will inspire and amuse in equal measure and create confidence in your mushroom identification.

Collins Fungi

More of a Field Guide than a foraging guide, this illustrated guide is seriously comprehensive. The illustrations are beautiful, but the descriptions are complex for a beginner to interpret. It is a vital book, however, to be consulted for confirmation when the other guides are suggesting a certain species ID, or when you just have no idea what species you are dealing with.

Jordan

A very clear and practical guide to some of the more commonly eaten fungi. It is a good companion to Mushrooms by John Wright in that it lists the edible qualities and culinary uses of a few species that John Wright omits presumably as he doesn’t think they are worthwhile e.g. Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus). Again, hazardous lookalikes are well described and the photos are very clear.

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