Recently a few folk have asked for book and website recommendations about foraging and herbal medicine.
This brings up the subject of the best way to learn the art of foraging and herbal medicine. Foraging cannot be done purely through books and reading on the internet. You need to be guided and shown by someone that knows what they are doing. Find your local forager and attend walks and workshops when you can, at different times of the year so you can see the same plants through the seasons. Herbal medicine can be learnt through books and never seeing a living plant but it defeats the whole purpose of connecting to the plants. The Association of Foragers website gives you members in your area.
The next thing, as well as your local friendly and knowledgable forager, one of the first books you will need is a botany book called a key. It helps you identify at a botanical level the plants you want to learn. It takes a while to get your head into the new thinking but it is vital you learn this skill so you know exactly what plants you can eat.
NEVER EVER eat anything you don’t know what it is. Always be 125% of the identity.
The Wild Flower Key by Francis Rose is the best botanical key for the UK.
Next find a patch of land near to you, your own garden, a local woodland, a coastal area. A patch you can enjoyably visit on a regular basis and do just that visit and slow down and look at the plants. Take your time and enjoy learning to identify the plants. Watch and observe the plants through the seasons, it can take years to learn the details of even one plant. Don’t be put off because if you take your time and try not to rush it you will learn so much more and you’ll gain confidence as well.
Now we can get to books to help you learn through your practical walks/workshops with your local forager and your observations and visits to your chosen area(s).
Any book by Roger Philips. A veteran of foraging his books are excellent for helping you learn clearly and correctly.
Any book by Stephen Harrod Buhner to learn to connect to the plants. Stephens writing is amazing! His ability to lightheartly and simply convey the complexity of plants and their interactions with humans is beautiful.
The New Wildcrafted Cuisine by Pascal Baudar is an interesting book and quite boundary pushing foraging recipe book.
A quick word on learning through the internet and social media, as with any subject on the internet there is there is good information and bad information so please be aware of that. Social media is a very useful tool for getting connected to like minded folk but please do not try and learn your plants through photos on social media, it will just confuse you and you may even give up on learning. Find your local forager and find your patch of nature to sit in and learn from. There’s no substitute for your local area and the plants that grow around you. It is the connection your seeking.
There are some useful websites, these are places and people I trust for their plant knowledge and ethics. There are other sites which maybe great but I have not encountered them yet. I’m spending time on getting my own knowledge and thoughts onto this website! That’s why I admire these people as they have already done that.
Mark Williams of Galloway wild Foods has put together an extensive website full of information. Atesting to his own extensive knowledge of foraging.gallowaywildfoods.com
Monica Wilde has an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants and foraging her website has good solid information. Monica works for Neals Yard and always has a plant project on the go and herbal powerhouse.monicawilde.com
Robin Harfords site eat the weeds is excellent. Robin is another veteran of modern foraging. He has over many years put his excellent site together. eattheweeds.com
Vivenne Campbell is a wonderful herbalist and forager based in Ireland. Her site is also extensive and looks at the medicinal and cosmetic properties of plants as well as foraging. She runs an online course that is very well resourced. theherbalhub.com
Once you get to grips with the plants you’ll learn that it’s the phytochemicals that produce the flavour and medicinal actions of the plants. A very extensive website to learn the constituents of plants is Dr Dukes ethnobotanical and phytochemical database. https://phytochem.nal.usda.gov/phytochem/search/list
I hope this helps on your journey with plants and nature.