Wild Edible Plant Book Reviews

Rating scale: 1-5 (1 = poor, 5 = excellent)
Overall rating: is this a book worth owning?
Plant identification: how useful is it for identifying an unknown plant or using the guide to find a particular plant in the wild?
Plant uses: how much detail does the book give on ways to eat the plant?
Picture types: how does the guide show its plants?
Usefulness for Texas: how likely are you to find a lot of these plants in Texas, as well as the Gulf Coast and Southwest states?
Who will find it useful: what skill level of forager will get the most use from this guide.
Notes: specific details about the guide I think are worth knowing.



The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
Overall rating: 5
Plant identification: 5
Plant uses: 4
Picture type(s): color photographs
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: novice to expert foragers
Notes: This is the best wild edible plant book I've ever found. Unlike other edible plant books, The Forager's Harvest contains multiple photographs of each plant to help with identification throughout the plant's life cycle. These pictures are large and the plants stand out well in them, making positive identification very easy. Sam Thayer also gives excellent, detailed tips on harvesting and preparing the plants. This book can't be beat. He also has an outstanding companion DVD set where you can actually watch him harvest and prepare the plants: Downside is it's probably too big for field use.
Sam Thayer also has a companion set of DVDs where you can watch him harvest and prepare these plants: The Forager's Harvest DVD: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants



A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guide)
Overall rating: 4
Plant identification: 2
Plant uses: 2
Picture type(s): black & white drawings, color photographs
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: forager who are already good at identifying plants
Notes: This is the book everyone buys to teach themselves wild edible plants and it contains the most plants by far. If you can identify the plant by some other means this is probably the book to tell you if it's edible, especially up north or on the east coast. Most people find it to be a poor reference for identification purposes and it only gives the barest of information on how to use/eat the plant.



Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpel's Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families, 4th Ed.
Overall rating: 4
Plant identification: 4
Plant uses: 2
Picture type(s): black & white drawings
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: novice foragers or anyone who wants to improve their plant identification skills.
Notes: This book will teach you how to properly identify plants which is a crucial skill for foragers. There are multiple, detailed drawings of each plant and the author does focus on edible plants of each family. I consider this book a "must have".



Overall rating: 4
Plant identification: 3
Plant uses: 4
Picture type(s): black & white drawings
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: novice to expert foragers who want to know historical information about the plants
Notes: I love this book and use a lot of its historical information in my plant classes. The drawings are large and detailed but unfortunately lack any scale indicators. The maps of each plant's growing range are very conservative and I've found many of the plants in areas outside the areas shown for them.



Edible Wild Plants: An Introduction to Familiar North American Species (North American Nature Guides)
Overall rating: 3
Plant identification: 3
Plant uses: 2
Picture type(s): color drawings
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: day hikers, backpackers, hunters.
Notes: This laminated pamphlet is designed to be stuffed into your bag and pulled out at random moments. Being only 22"x8.25" it covers only a small number of plants.



Stalking The Wild Asparagus
Overall rating: 3
Plant identification: 2
Plant uses: 4
Picture type(s): black & white drawings
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: experienced foragers who can already identify plants but want more ways to prepare them. It is also a good inspiration for those just starting to forage.
Notes: Euell Gibbons is considered the grandfather of modern foraging. While this book isn't much help in identifying wild edible plants it shines in how to prepare and eat them. His prose reads almost like poetry and I can't read more than a few pages before he's inspired me to dash off into the woods to gather something for supper.



Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9-99
Overall rating: 3
Plant identification: 3
Plant uses: 2
Picture type(s): cartoonish watercolor paintings
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: young kids just learning about plants, homeschoolers (though strongly conservative Christians may not approve of the book's creation myth)
Notes: This somewhat "hippie-ish" book is designed to be an introduction into plant identification for young kids. It only covers a few families but focuses on edible plants along with similar toxic plants. It doesn't teach harvesting or preparation.  It's author is Thomas Epel, who also wrote Botany in a Day, reviewed above.



Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide
Overall rating: 3
Plant identification: 3
Plant uses: 3
Picture type(s): color photographs
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: novice foragers though more experienced forager might find a nugget or two of new information.
Notes: This is a very average book. The pictures are okay, the directions for preparing the plants are okay. It's worth getting cheaply from a used book seller.



Basic Essentials Edible Wild Plants and Useful Herbs, 3rd (Basic Essentials Series)
Overall rating: 3
Plant identification: 2
Plant uses: 4
Picture type(s): color photographs
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: novice foragers and those who want recipes for cooking wild edibles.
Notes: The main selling point of this book is its appendix of recipes. It is also one of the few books that covers seaweeds. It's pictures are small and not very good, though.



Going to Seed: Finding, Identifying, and Preparing Edible Plants of the Southwest
Overall rating: 3
Plant identification: 2
Plant uses: 4
Picture type(s): black & white drawings, color photographs
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: experienced forager who can already identify plants and now want recipes for cooking them.
Notes: This is another book useful for it's excellent recipes but not a whole lot else. It has the worst drawing of any edible plant book. Buy it used. A number of its plants can be found in Texas but it's more for New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Southern California.



Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest: A Practical Guide
Overall rating: 2
Plant identification: 2
Plant uses: 3
Picture type(s): black & white drawings, color photographs
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: novice to experienced foragers in Texas.
Notes: I really wanted to love this book but is very disorganized and doesn't cover many edible plants. The author does include some Texas plants that other more general plant guide skip, such as buffalo gourds. The book's drawings are pretty good but its photographs are small and not very useful for positively identifying plants. A large part of the book is devoted to plant fibers and dyes, but it does also include recipes. Buy it if you are serious about foraging in Texas, but be aware that only a small portion  is devoted to edible plants.



Survival Acre: 50 Nationwide Wild Foods & Medicines
Overall rating: 3
Plant identification: 2
Plant uses: 3
Picture type(s): black & white drawings
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: experienced foragers and homesteaders.
Notes: This is another old, out of print book. The drawings range from average down to poor. On the plus side, it does include nutritional values, medicinal information, some recipes, and information of freezing wild edibles. It also lists which wild seeds are good for sprouts.



Nasco Field Guide to Edible and Useful Wild Plants of North America
Overall rating: 3
Plant identification: 4
Plant uses: 2
Picture type(s): black & white drawings
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: novice foragers
Notes:  This old, out of print book is surprisingly good for identifying wild edible plants. It has large, detailed, black & white drawings of leaves, flowers, stems and fruit of the plants. More importantly, these drawings are done on grids so that you can accurately determine the size of the plants.




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