All crafters have a cache of special tools—and foragers are no exception. I’ve been gathering food and medicine from wild places for nearly three decades and these are my tried-and-true tools of choice. As a bonus, every single one pulls double duty in the garden and around the yard.
It’s easy to become captivated by wild food and medicine. There’s a vitality to wild plants that is unsurpassed, and a nutrient load that is astonishing. More truly though, it’s connection that enamors us—a link to the natural cycles and sustenance of the earth, including a realization that a generous supply of nourishment and healing is springing up all around us.
If you’ve ever felt frustrated trying to choose a reliable field guide to take foraging with you, you’re not alone. There are heaps of books on the subject, and the selection can be dizzying. It’s truly important—you might even say a matter of life and death—to make solid choices in this department. To give you a hand, we cozied up in the Chestnut library and got studious, reviewing all the regional wild food and medicine books we could get our hands on, and checking each one for botanical accuracy and attention to detail. The best are queued up here, and there’s a little something for everyone, from bright-eyed beginners to seasoned foragers and plant enthusiasts.
In the spirit of cold-season stockpiles and cozy reading nooks everywhere, we’ve gathered a list of our most cherished books on wild food and herb foraging. Plenty of fantastic field guides and wild food books didn’t make it into this post. We don’t receive any compensation for promoting the books in our list—they are simply our personal favorites. We’ve included links to purchase directly from the author, when applicable, but you can find almost all of these books online or order them through your local bookstore. Note that some of these books cover medicinal and edible uses, whereas some cover only wild foods.
We herbalists have a unique take on the commonest of herbs: instead of dismissing them as mundane or maddening, we choose to embrace wily botanicals with enchantment and enterprise. These medicinal and edible weeds—vulgar villains to most—are the herbalists’ beloveds. This alchemical perspective, transforming the unplanned and uninvited into a veritable treasure, is a handy approach in life that needn’t be limited to weeds.
Happy Pride! This blog post serves as an accompaniment to our month-long LGBTQ2+ Pride month series that has been posted weekly to Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine’s Instagram page throughout the month of June. The series, The Flowers We Request: Pride & Healing, has been written by Brydie (they/them) and Sarah (she/her/ella).
A plethora of resources are available for one interested in the rich traditions related to African American herbalism. Below are a few lists in various media. Included are books, conferences, Facebook groups, herbalists, organizations, and websites. This is of course only a subset of items in this field but will hopefully get you well on your way if you’re just starting to explore this area, and will be helpful to all one way or another.
Many new or modified herbal traditions arose within Black communities in North America. These traditions were most celebrated, documented, and depended upon in the Southeast, where slavery was most concentrated. Typical elements included a combination of African, European, and Indigenous healing modalities, medicinal herbs, spiritual practices, and folklore.
African American herbalism is part of the backbone of a multitude of healing traditions in many parts of the Americas. However, it is often underappreciated, as are the rich herbal traditions of the African continent. Thankfully, a time has come where lineages such as these are being lifted up and celebrated as part of the rich tapestry of healing formed over thousands of years and thousands of miles of transition and transformation.
Are you ready to take your herbal book game to the next level? Here are our recommendations for advanced and clinical-quality herbal texts and references, including Ayurvedic and Chinese herbals.