Which Wild Edible Plants Are Covered in Samuel Thayer’s Foraging Books?

Samuel Thayer’s foraging books Nature’s Garden and The Forager’s Harvest are well loved by foragers, and his upcoming book, Incredible Wild Edibles, promises to be another great resource. 

Thayer doesn’t cover the same wild edible foods in any of his books.  Each book goes into great detail about a few dozen wild foods to forage, with new wild edibles in each book.  This means if you’re looking for information about a specific wild food then it’s very helpful to know which book will cover it. 

It turns out it’s really hard to find a list of the wild edibles covered in each of his books, though.  Even Amazon doesn’t list the plants on the book’s pages (and there’s no “click to look inside” option) so once I finally found out which plants were covered in each book I figured I’d post the list here to help other foragers. 

Here are the lists of wild foods covered in each of Thayer’s books. 

Wild foods list of each of Samuel Thayer's foraging books: Incredible Wild Edibles, Nature's Garden & The Forager's Harvest

The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants  (2006)

  1. ostrich fern
  2. cattail
  3. wapato
  4. wild rice
  5. wild leek
  6. smilax
  7. butternut
  8. siberian elm
  9. stinging nettle 
  10. wood nettle
  11. sheep sorrel
  12. goosefoot or lamb’s quarters
  13. spring beauty
  14. marsh marigold
  15. swamp saxifrage
  16. serviceberry (a.k.a. juneberry or saskatoon)
  17. chokecherry 
  18. pin cherry
  19. ground bean or hog peanut
  20. hopniss
  21. black locust
  22. sumac
  23. wild grape
  24. basswood
  25. evening primrose
  26. parsnip
  27. common milkweed
  28. virginia waterleaf
  29. nannyberry
  30. black haw
  31. highbush
  32. cranberry
  33. burdock
  34. thistle

Wild foods list of each of Samuel Thayer's foraging books: Incredible Wild Edibles, Nature's Garden & The Forager's Harvest

Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants (2010)

  1. trout lily
  2. solomon’s seal
  3. false solomon’s seal
  4. american lotus
  5. mayapple
  6. hackberry
  7. walnut
  8. acorn
  9. hazelnut
  10. prickly pear
  11. amaranth
  12. passion flower
  13. toothwort
  14. garlic mustard
  15. blueberry
  16. huckleberry
  17. cranberry
  18. black huckleberry
  19. new jersey tea
  20. wild strawberry
  21. black cherry
  22. sand cherry
  23. wild plum
  24. aronia
  25. autumnberry
  26. bunchberry
  27. wood sorrel
  28. honewort
  29. wild carrot
  30. cow parsnip
  31. black nightshade
  32. bugleweed
  33. elderberry
  34. jerusalem-artichoke
  35. ox-eye daisy
  36. dandelions
  37. wild lettuce
  38. sow-thistle
  39. prenanthes
  40. chicory
  41. salsify 

Honestly, I’m a little perplexed as to why Thayer chose to include some of these at the expense of other wild edibles that I consider much tastier and better to forage.  For instance, I wouldn’t go out of my way to ever forage Virginia Waterleaf, which he included in the first book.  While it’s certainly easy to find (especially in spring when little else is), I have yet to find a way to cook it where I’d want to eat it regularly unless it was a survival situation.  He chose to include that at the expense of either acorns or elderberries (two of our family’s all time favorite foods to forage) until four years later? And no mulberries, crab apples, wild asparagus….  I kind of wonder if he purposely holds back some of the best wild foods for future volumes, which makes sense for book sales but not so much for the forager who wants one comprehensive guide to the best wild edible foods.

Samuel Thayer also has a book set to be released in November, Incredible Wild Edibles

Wild foods list of each of Samuel Thayer's foraging books: Incredible Wild Edibles, Nature's Garden & The Forager's Harvest

The book description promises that once again Thayer will not cover any wild edible plants he covered in previous books but once again it doesn’t list which wild edible plants it will cover.  Thanks to a helpful reader who commented, we now know the list in this book too.

  1. Black Mustard
  2. Bladder Campion
  3. Sweet Flag (Calamus)
  4. Caraway
  5. Chickweed
  6. Chufa
  7. Creeping Bellflower
  8. Fennel
  9. Wild Garlic
  10. Gooseberry
  11. Hickory
  12. Hops
  13. Japanese Knotweed
  14. Kentucky Coffeetree
  15. Maple
  16. Miner’s Lettuce
  17. Mulberry
  18. Pawpaw
  19. Persimmon
  20. Poke
  21. Prairie Turnip
  22. Purple Poppy
  23. Mallow
  24. Purslane
  25. Quickweed
  26. Rose
  27. Sassafras
  28. Shepherd’s Purse
  29. Sochane
  30. Strawberry Spinach
  31. Sweetroot (Sweet Cicely, Aniseroot)
  32. Violet
  33. Watercress
  34. Water Parsnip
  35. Wild Radish
  36. Wintercress 

I’m happy to see some of our family favorites on the list, like mulberries, violets, wild garlic and maples.

The description says: 

Incredible Wild Edibles covers 36 of the best edible wild plants in North America: fruits, berries, nuts, shoots, leafy greens, root vegetables, culinary herbs, teas, and syrups that boast exceptional flavor and nutrition. The plants chosen represent every habitat and every region in North America, from the northern forests to the southwest deserts, from the largest cities to the wildest mountains. Rather than cover hundreds of species in brief accounts that leave the reader unsure of how to proceed, Samuel Thayer encourages readers to thoroughly learn one plant at a time. Each of these traditional foods has a rich culinary and cultural history―a wholesome past that is still relevant for our health and happiness today. The text is fully accessible to the novice, but remains botanically accurate and has the in-depth information that seasoned foragers crave.

     Sharing the wisdom of a lifetime of daily foraging, the author answers all of the reader’s questions about each plant: How do I identify it? What might I confuse it with? Where can I find it? What part do I use, and when is it ready to be picked? How do I gather and prepare it? How can I be sure to harvest it responsibly? This discussion is accompanied by more than 350 color photos showing all the key features for identification, including potentially confusing species. Photos also depict the exact parts to use and the proper stage for collection. All of this is delivered in a familiar but authoritative tone, along with humorous anecdotes and insights from extensive real-life experience with each plant covered in the book.

     Incredible Wild Edibles contains an index, bibliography, illustrated glossary, range maps, and foraging calendar. This third volume in Thayer’s Forager’s Harvest series has no overlap of the plants covered in the first two volumes.

If you’ve read the newest book, please share your feelings about it.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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Post Author: Alicia Bayer

4 thoughts on “Which Wild Edible Plants Are Covered in Samuel Thayer’s Foraging Books?

    Melissa Price

    (October 15, 2017 - 11:19 pm)

    The plants covered in Incredible Wild Edibles are:
    Black Mustard, Bladder Campion, Sweet Flag (Calamus), Caraway, Chickweed, Chufa, Creeping Bellflower, Fennel, Wild Garlic, Gooseberry, Hickory, Hops, Japanese Knotweed, Kentucky Coffeetree, Maple, Miner’s Lettuce, Mulberry, Pawpaw, Persimmon, Poke, Prairie Turnip, Purple Poppy Mallow, Purslane, Quickweed, Rose, Sassafras, Shepherd’s Purse, Sochane, Strawberry Spinach, Sweetroot (Sweet Cicely, Aniseroot), Violet, Watercress, Water Parsnip, Wild Radishes, Wintercress 

      Alicia Bayer

      (October 16, 2017 - 2:36 pm)

      Awesome! Thanks so much! I’ll update the post with the list.

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