6 of the Best wild crafting Books for Identifying and Harvesting Wild Medicinal & Edible Plants
For plant geeks, whether herbalist, wild crafter, or nature lover, books are an important resource. Though not a substitute for getting up close and personal with the plants and trees in your bioregion, they can be tremendously helpful in identifying new plants and understanding those you already know. When it comes to identification and harvesting of wild medicinal and edible plants, these six wild crafting books are my best company on ventures into the wild.
A Side Note About Buying Books
Before you purchase any of these books, please consider who your purchase supports—the author, a small business, your local community, or a global corporate online book seller? We sell all but one of the books mentioned here in the shop. If you have an independent bookstore in your community, an herbal apothecary, a locally owned outdoor shop, or a local nursery and you want to keep them in your community, please buy plant books from these sellers. And even if they don’t carry the book you want, there’s a good chance they’d be happy to order it for you.
1. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds – 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival by Katrina Blair
In The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, Katrina Blair dives deep into thirteen edible plants common around the globe wherever human settlements are found. There’s a good chance you have some of these plants growing in your backyard. Blair is an author, holistic health educator and expert in sustainable living practices. She is the founder of Turtle Lake Refuge, a nonprofit whose mission is to celebrate the connection between personal health and wild lands. From the wide world of wild edible plants, Blair identified this distinguished group of wild weeds because they are common around the world, provide both food and medicine, and adapt well to a diverse range climates and conditions. From Dandelion to Mustad, Plantain and Thistle, each chapter provides a comprehensive look at another wild weed including its history and current use, food and medicinal uses, and lots of unique recipes. In this book, Blair offers a unique and practical perspective on the use of wild weeds to nourish our bodies and help us align with the wisdom of nature.
2. Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory Tilford
Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West is a beautiful, practical book by respected herbalist and naturalist, Gregory Tilford. Despite the reference to the “West” in the title of this book, the author notes that the many of the plants described in the book can be found throughout much of the United States—from the Midwest and Southeast and from the west coast of Canada to southern Alaska. Tilford’s description of more than 130 commonly used medicinal plants includes the detail to help you identify the plant, including bloom time, habitat and range, and how to distinguish it from “look-alike” plants. In addition to Tilfords’s expertise on the medicinal properties, what I love most about this book are the glossy plant photos. If you are more of a visual learner, this book will provide you with endless enjoyment whether you’re studying at home or wild crafting in the wild
3. Medicinal Plants of the Desert & Canyon West by Michael Moore
Medicinal Plants of the Desert & Canyon West by Michael Moore is one of three must-have books for herbalists, wildcrafters, and plant geeks of all stripes who live in the western United States. The late Michael Moore was a renowned and beloved herbalist and founder of the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine. His writing about medicinal plants is as humorous and irreverent as it is informative and insightful. His book includes detailed descriptions and botanical drawings to help you accurately identify plants, as week as instructions for collecting, drying, and preparing the plant as medicine.
4. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West is another of the must-own books by Michael Moore. In general, this book describes higher altitude plants of the west (compared to Medicinal Plants of the Desert & Canyon West), specifically medicinal plants common to mountains, foothills, and upland areas. In the Arizona Highlands where I live, a transition zone between the Sonoran Desert and Colorado Plateau, I find both books very useful.
5. Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore
I have loved Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West since I went to herb school in California more than twenty years ago. Like Moore’s other books, this is a classic for beginning and experienced herbalists and wildcrafters. In his entertaining, relatable prose, Moore weaves his intimate knowledge of the plants, their appearance, habitat and chemistry with his practical experience working with these plants as an herbalist and medicine-maker. From a geographical perspective, this book overlaps somewhat with the plants in Moore’s books, but is more focused on California and the temperate regions of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
6. Southwest Foraging – 117 Wild & Flavorful Edibles by John Slattery
Southwest Foraging – 117 Wild & Flavorful Edibles is the latest offering by John Slattery, the founder of Desert Tortoise Botanicals, herbalist, educator, and expert on food and medicine of the Sonoran Desert. In this book, Slattery covers offers a unique blend of food plants and native medicinals commonly found in the diverse habitats of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and southern Utah. The beautiful images in this book, coupled with the detailed descriptions, simplify plant identification. In addition to instructions on when, where, and how to harvest, Slattery emphasizes the importance of sustainable harvesting and respect for the earth, with a section on “Future Harvests” for each of the featured plants. This book is an informative and delightful guide to deepen your connection to place and grace your plate with nature’s abundance.
When it comes to wildcrafting, be safe, know your plants, and above all respect the plants and the communities in which they thrive. All these authors share a deep love and respect for the plants they write about. I hope that you will too. You can read more about harvesting and ethical wild crafting in Independence, Inter-dependence & Herbal Medicine-Making.
Whether you want to wild craft plants or simply get to know the plants in your bioregion, you will find something to nourish body, mind, and spirit in these six books. We sell most of these books in our Prescott, Arizona shop or look for them at a small local business in your community. Do you have a wild crafting book you’d add to this list? Share in the comments below or take a picture of it and tag with #nectarherbandtea on Instagram.