The path to becoming a seasoned forager starts with a solid foundation, and for most, that’s a good guidebook. Here are our recommendations on the best foraging books for beginners, no matter your local environment.

A quality beginner’s guidebook should become your bible to the outdoors, equipping you with essential wisdom for foraging success. It’ll ensure you’re armed with all the basic knowledge you need to safely pick and consume wild foods from Britain’s hedgerows, woodlands, fields and coastlines, without making yourself sick (or much worse!).

Fortunately, the market is ripe with excellent UK foraging books for beginners, some of which stand out for their well-earned reputation and reliability. A sub-par guidebook is simply not worth the risk.

We always recommend that beginners should use guidebooks in conjunction with other learning tools or resources, such as consulting with a knowledgeable peer, researching online, using Google Lens or attending guided foraging walks to ensure safe and accurate identification. A good book will also educate you on foraging best practice so you can minimise your impact.

So here are some top picks that I’d recommend getting your hands on. Most of these foraging books for beginners I either personally own, or they’ve been recommended to me by knowledgeable and experienced foragers. Happy reading!

Food for Free – Richard Mabey

This book is an absolute classic in the field and no doubt a staple on many long-time forager’s bookshelves, as well as many newbie’s.

Richard is widely hailed as Britain’s most prominent nature writer having written over 30 books on herbology and plants. In this book, he seamlessly blends practical advice with poetic and philosophical reflections on our relationship with nature, making it a joyful read as well as incredibly useful.

Food for Free was first published in 1972, and has undergone various revisions over the decades (11 at last count), ensuring the content inside remains as relevant and up-to-date as ever. The book provides illustrated information on identifying, collecting, and cooking UK wild foods, as well as foraging best practice and guidance on laws and regulations.

The most modern editions are published by Collins Gem and come in a nice pocket size. though they contain around 100 edible foods, whereas some earlier editions contain around 300. That being said, bear in mind just because something is edible, it doesn’t mean it’s worth eating so you probably aren’t missing much in the omissions!

Instead of grouped by food types, this foraging book groups species by season, offering a logical guide for all season-round foraging guidance.

Wild Food UK – Marlow Renton and Eric Biggane

The Wild Food UK pocket guide was actually the first foraging book for beginners I ever bought. It provides a brilliant insight into 120 different species of trees, plants and mushrooms that grow wild in the UK. 

With over 500 fantastic photos, it’s clear, concise and provides great information into poisonous and lookalike species to avoid, which is essential knowledge for beginners. It’s such an easy book to use and a perfect size for chucking into your backpack for countryside walks.

Their website (with the same name) is always a go-to online resource for me, and I really like the approachable way in which they write. They also hold foraging courses around the UK, which have been running since 2012.

The only downside to this book for some people is that around 50% of the contents is mushrooms. Considering I’m somewhat obsessed with fungi, personally that really never bothered me. This book is also grouped by species / food groups (e.g. berries, plants) and not by season like Food for Free, which may or may not suit some people. I love it.

Wild Food: A Complete Guide for Foragers – Roger Philips

Although this may not immediately strike you as the best foraging book for beginners due it being such a comprehensive ‘foraging bible’, having so much information can also prove useful if you’re an inquisitive forager and eager to learn a lot.

I often found myself scouring the pocket guides first when out and about, but hungry to know more, I’d curl up with a cuppa and dive into this comprehensive resource back home. 

That being said, if you don’t want to be overwhelmed to start with on your foraging journey, some of the other guidebooks on this list might be better suited to you.

This book is known for its high-quality photographs, an invaluable tool in learning to correctly identify different species. It also includes many more foods than most books, such as wild veg, seaweeds and even tree bark (though I would add that in my book, tree bark is a totally overrated wild food and best saved for the end of the world…)

The Forager’s Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvests – John Wright

This book has a slightly different approach to many: a calendar-style layout showing readers the best month to harvest certain species.

The book’s organisation by months makes it easy for beginners to understand what they should be looking for at any given time of the year. This structure of moving through the seasons helps to simplify the learning process, ensuring you can gradually build your knowledge as the year progresses.

Wright covers a wide range of edible wild plants, fungi, and seaweeds found in the UK – a wide breadth of information for people exploring different types of foraging.

A bonus is that John Wright is known for his engaging and often humorous writing style, including interesting anecdotes and historical context, which makes the book enjoyable to read.

Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat – Ellen Zachos

In this guidebook, Ellen highlights common plants found in urban areas, gardens, and backyards, making foraging accessible to those who may not have access to wilder, rural areas.

This approach demystifies the idea that foraging is only possible in the wilderness – she uncovers the edible treasure hidden in plain sight.

Although it’s an American book, it’s still very much appropriate for British foragers, covering 65 familiar plants, many of which are often overlooked or considered weeds. By focusing on these plants, Zachos helps readers see their surroundings in a new light.

The verdict is that this is an especially great beginner guidebook for city dwellers looking to explore wild foods close to home. 

The Hedgerow Handbook: Recipes, Remedies and Rituals – Adele Nozedar

Adele Nozedar is a British author who provides a comprehensive guide to foraging in hedgerows – an utterly quintessential part of the British countryside.

This book includes not only information on how to identify various hedgerow plants, but also offers a plethora of recipes and uses for these wild ingredients, blending the foraging guide with a culinary and medicinal aspect.

The wild food remedies in her book are designed to address common ailments and health concerns, such as colds, cuts, skin irritations, and digestive issues. The book emphasises the traditional medicinal uses of plants, and folklore, offering insights into how they have been used historically to promote health and wellbeing. Some sections of the book are dedicated to natural skincare too, such as salves and ointments that harness the natural properties of the plants.

So if you’re not just looking for a guide on what to pick to eat, but want something with a holistic approach, Adele’s foraging guidebook is for you.

Edible Seashore (River Cottage Handbook) – John Wright

If you live near the coast, then there is a rich bounty of delicacies to be found on the seashore. From crustaceans to seaweed, mushrooms to molluscs, John Wright is at it again with another great foraging guidebook – this time all about the seaside. 

John addresses many practical considerations about foraging at the beach, including covering conservation and ethical foraging principles. From safety regarding tides and rocky terrains, to avoiding foodborne illnesses, even the legal aspects of fishing rights or seasonal restrictions – John covers all.

Beyond that, he provides valuable information on how to prepare and cook, offering a variety of recipes that showcase the potential of coastal ingredients in everyday cooking.

If you want to hone in on coastal foraging then this well-rounded guidebook is one of the best out there.

And there you have it, a roundup of some of the best UK foraging guidebooks perfect for beginners! Whether you’re drawn to the salty treasures of the coastline, the lush diversity of hedgerows, or what’s seasonal and wild in your garden, there’s a guide out there to help you start your foraging adventure.

Note: This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not a comprehensive foraging or bushcraft guide. Foraging requires accurate knowledge to safely identify edible species. Misidentification can lead to harmful or fatal consequences. Always consult a professional or reliable guide before consuming wild foods, and adhere to foraging best practices.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *