Samuel Thayer’s Field Guide To Edible Wild Plants of Eastern & Central North America – Review

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Your old foraging and edible wild plant field guides are now outclassed and irrelevant.

I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of Samuel Thayer’s new book, Samuel Thayer’s Field Guide To Edible Wild Plants of Eastern & Central North America, while on a 2-day break from guiding river trips this spring. We have a large edible wild plant library at our field school. Now, we no longer need it.

If you are new to foraging and haven’t read Thayer’s other books, he is the author of note on foraging and food uses of wild plants. If you consolidated all of the other wild food and foraging author’s books into a single volume, it would rate about 25% as useful as Thayer’s work. If it sounds like I think a lot of his work, it is because I do. I have been foraging and interacting with plants (and plant books) for over four decades, and teaching professionally for 24 years. Back in the day the norm was for authors to copy other authors and not do their own research. That all ended when Thayer published his first book. Now it’s a bunch of years later, and what I can say about his work that best describes it is that I trust him to be truthful and factual. Other books and authors, not so much.

The new book fits into his body or work brilliantly. His first three books contained detailed descriptions of a limited number of species. The new book is more of a field guide, with limited, but useful, information on each plant. As a result of this format, he is able to cover many more species than in previous books. He states that this book of 736 pages contains every edible plant of eastern and central North America, a total of 679 species.

The introduction has a lot of information on how we know plants are edible, as well as sections on edible versus poisonous, keys to identification, and the ethics of harvesting.

This hefty volume is certain to become one of your most used field guides. I’m getting a second copy to bring into the field.

You can order it from the author directly here, or get it at the usual suspects of online retailers. It is scheduled to be released on June 1, 2023.

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