The snow has gone and if your happy to brave a bit of cold, wet weather there are plenty of amazing winter greens out there just begging to be picked (see my January posting for many of these). Having said that, I have wanted to write about a few of my favorite foraging books for while and this is a good time of year to cosy up indoors, practice a few culinary skills and do a bit of research for the coming months. It’s very rewarding to come across a new wild food only previously seen in a book and be able to ID it on site or to find some tasty treat with a great recipe already in mind. There is absolutely no substitute for being outdoors and getting immersed in nature but backing up your knowledge with a bit of reading is invaluable; providing you have the right books and don’t waste time wading through anything poorly written, inaccurate or just plain boring. I did not do well at school (tiny violins begin to wail) but despite being told my window for learning was well and truly shut, I find that reading about something, hunting for it, finding it, observing it change with the seasons, cooking or preserving it and then eating it, is an excellent way to learn without any of the academic drudgery I remember from my teens. Below ( and in no specific order) are a few of the books I repeatedly return to and I wholeheartedly recommend every forager, experienced or otherwise, have on their shelf. It’s not definitive by any means and part of the fun is finding the books you get on with so please take or ignore my suggestions as you wish. Happy swotting.
1. The Easy Edible Mushroom Guide by David Pegler. The first mushroom guide I ever bought and in fact the start of my love for wild foods. This is such a good book to get you started with mushroom hunting and it’s full of superb illustrations (much more accurate than just a photo). The Easy Wild Food Guide in the same series by Neil Fletcher is also a great beginners handbook.
2. Mushrooms by Roger Philips. Pretty much the photographic bible of UK mushrooms, my copy of the 2007 updated version is in constant use and nothing really comes close to this book (the next step up from this is the daunting Fungi Nordica…all 1600 pages of it and not a single photo or illustration!).
3. The Wild Flower Key by Francis Rose. This book used to scare the hell out of me. It represented everything I did not understand about the wild world. Now we have become firm friends and I use it all the time. The best book on UK wild plants there is. FACT!
4. The Hedgerow Handbook: Recipes, Remedies and Rituals by Adele Nozedar. A lovely little book with beautiful watercolour illustrations. I often cook with this and Roger Philips Wild Food, stealing the best or easiest bits from each.
5. Edible Seashore by John Wright. Such a good book to get you started with seashore foraging. Great photos all taken by John too. I am also a fan of his Hedgerows book in the same series.
6. Wild Food by Roger Philips. This is really a recipe book not a foraging guide but it is crammed with wonderful ideas and brimming with wild seasonal foods and drinks as well as some fascinating historical information about wild plants, mushrooms and seaweeds. Invaluable.
7. Wild Drugs by Zoe Hawes. I realise that proper herbalists will scoff at such a coffee tablesque guide to wild medicines but for me this was and is a terrific and very useful little book full of simple and easy to make remedies. And my Mum bought it for me.
8. Hamlyn Guide to Trees of Britain and Europe by Humphries, Press and Sutton. Not the most comprehensive of tree books but extremely useful and small enough to take out without feeling like you have half a tree in your pocket.
9. Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets. Not a foraging guide at all but a wonderful introduction to the amazing mind of my fungi hero (yes I actually have one). Look on line for his ten minute TED lecture to see what’s in store. https://blog.ted.com/2008/05/06/paul_stamets/
10. Field Studies Council Laminated Hand Outs. I’m not sure of the correct title for these but the FSC produce wonderful and informative, illustrated fold out sheet on numerous wild plant and animal topics.