Ten Coastal Foraging books you need in your life

For the last few years we have made a name for ourselves with Foraging and Wild Foods courses, and we have led hundreds of clients through woods, fields and along beaches looking for food for free. Something that we think is vital to any kind of outdoor skill education is sending people away afterwards with the skills and knowledge to continue their learning in the days, weeks and years to come. A big part of this is recommending some excellent foraging guidebooks that will not only help folk identify the edible (and poisonous!) species, but will also show the wild food hunter the best places to find them and how to stay on the right side of the law.

The books below (and some helpful links on where to purchase them from online) are intended as a guide – we would of course recommend that the best way to learn is to come along on a day with an experienced foraging guide.

The Wild Flower Key (Francis Rose)

The first step with any kind of plant identification is knowing how to identify it by the visual cues – the shape, colour, size and so on. This comprehensive guide (relevant particularly to Britain and Ireland, but of some relevance in Northern Europe too) is considered to be the ideal bridge between a technical guide for botanists and the keen amateur.

Wild Flowers of Britain and Europe (Podlech and Lippert)

It may seem like we are cheating by having two wild flower keys in this list, but this is one of my favourite ‘field’ guides, in a size and style perfect for throwing into a bag or rucksack ‘just in case’. It separates the plants by the colour of their flowers, making it easy to quickly jump to the section you need.

Edible Seashore (John Wright)

The River Cottage Handbook series contains several excellent wild food guides, and John Wright’s writing style is relaxed, informative and easily absorbed. The clear layout, well-researched information and good photographs make this an excellent companion to any foraging excursion. It covers not only the edible plants and seaweeds, but also guides to fishing, collecting molluscs and crustaceans and some recipe ideas for them all.

Food For Free (Richard Mabey)

This book should be on the shelf of everybody who has ever thought about dipping a toe into the world of wild food, and for good reason. Richard Mabey is largely responsible for the resurgence of the interest in wild food in the UK, and this regularly revised book not only covers the most commonly found edible species inland and on the shore, but also supplies information on the history, use and preparation of what you find.

Eat The Beach (Fraser Christian)

Fraser runs a wide and excellent range of coastal survival and foraging courses on the south coast of the UK, and has begun to put his wealth of knowledge as an outdoorsman and professional chef into print. This guide covers the most common species, what is available when and how to practically use them all.

Seashore (Collins Gem)

Sometimes simple is the best, and the Collins Gem guides provide a link into a world of outdoor information that is accessible, relevant and easy to digest. This small guide to the seashore environment deals with the different zones, from below the low-water mark to the dunes and cliffs behind. It covers the most common species, both edible and inedible – something that can be very useful when trying to ascertain what kind of crab, plant, mollusc or other lump of nature you have in front of you!

Guide to the Common Seashells of Britain and Ireland (Field Studies Council)

The Field Studies Council and other agencies have been publishing these handy folding A4 field guides for several years now, and they are the perfect way to start learning your way through the world of guidebooks and keys. There is a huge range available – from astral navigation through to lichens and ferns. There are several that are of use to the coastal forager, and this seashell guide will help you recognise the useful items along the beach debris.

A Key to Common Seaweeds (Steve Morrell)

Another laminated field guide, this is an easy reference sheet for the novice coastal forager and will give a quick reference to the most common seaweeds on British and Irish beaches.

Seaweeds: Edible, Available and Sustainable (Mouritsen, Johanse, Mouritsen)

If you want to really get into edible seaweeds then this book is certainly worth adding to your library. From a Danish author it covers everything from the identification and scientific classification of seaweeds through to their use in food, medicine and other industries and crafts.

Sea Fishing (Nick Fisher)

Another River Cottage handbook, by UK fishing legend Nick Fisher. This, unlike a lot of angling and fishing guides, covers everything a novice will need to know, from terminology and equipment through to where to go, what to do and what to do with it once you have landed your catch. If you want to learn how to fish from the shore or a boat then this is the book you need.

There are many more I could list – but if you are a novice coastal forager or want to learn the background information to the items you are already collecting then this list is an excellent way to start off.

If you want to come and learn how to forage on the coast with Original Outdoors then you can find the list of foraging course dates here.

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