Nature's Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants

The Guide Features

  • 512 color photos, demonstrating each edible part in the proper stage of harvest, plus showing important identifying features
  • Super-strong sewn binding
  • Step-by-step tutorial to positive plant identification
  • Photos and text comparing potentially confusing plants
  • Thorough discussion on how to gather and use the plants
  • Detailed information on harvest, preparation, and storage techniques
  • A foraging calendar showing harvest times for wild foods
  • A glossary of botanical terms illustrated with line drawings
  • Bibliography and recommended reading list
  • Index
  • Durable, Smyth-sewn binding
  • 512 6" x 9" pages

Ordering Information

Please order from your local bookstore or your preferred online retailer.

Nature’s Garden follows the same award-winning format of Samuel Thayer’s first book, with in-depth chapters covering 41 new wild edibles. In this volume you will find the most authoritative accounts of several important food plants, such as hackberry and American lotus, available anywhere. You will find mouth-watering photography of cranberries, blueberries, huckleberries, strawberries, wild plums, and more. You’ll hear of new methods for using dandelions. You’ll finally be able to make sense of the tricky wild lettuce / sow thistle group. You’ll discover that wild carrot and poison hemlock can be reliably told apart, thanks to a detailed chart accompanied by 19 photographs. You’ll read about vegetables with a rich tradition of use around the world that are largely ignored in the wild food literature, such as cow parsnip, patience dock, and honewort. You can read more exciting myth-busting about poisonous plant fables and the maligned black nightshade, plus anecdotes about purple children and the hazards of eating cacti. Yet perhaps the best part of all is the book within a book about acorns: 51 pages of the details that turn these nuts into food.

Advance Reviews by Leading Experts

Sam’s done it again! Okay. Here’s a book that will grab you and hold you fascinated and amazed to the very last page. It’s not a spy novel, but in a way, it yields just as much intrigue and enigma solving as any thriller. It takes edible wild plants to a whole new level.

Sam Thayer is a born storyteller and a born naturalist. He brings to life the places he describes, the tastes, scents and colors of the woods, marshes and glades that he calls “Nature’s Garden”. Reading his books are a delight, because he brings you along with him, tasting and browsing, deliberating on this and that flavor, or on this and that method of preparing some delectable wild vegetable or succulent berry, or debating on how rumors of poisoning by wild plants can grow and spread to the point of ridiculousness. But there are real dangers too, and these are seriously and carefully outlined along with the delights of the edible plants and parts.

This is not just an ordinary guide to identifying and processing wild edible plants. It is a compellingly personal book, a rich compendium of dedicated research and first-hand experience of forty-one of “the best” of the wild food plants, their history, how to find them, how to prepare them, and all the little tricks and techniques you need to know to convert an immense array of wild plants into delectable meals. In this book you can discover the yin and yang of black nightshade, how to extract chicory crowns, how to sort and leach acorns and identify the duds (“The acorn is among the most misunderstood and misrepresented of our wild foods”), how to de-husk hazelnuts and de-spine prickly pear pads, and how to flail and winnow amaranth seeds. All of these details are illustrated with spectacular photographs, including close-ups of key features and many, especially of the fruits, that are truly mouth-watering. I learned so much from this book and was introduced to “foodworthy” plants I have never encountered, for example, sand cherry, chokeberry – yes that’s chokeBBBBerry – and autumnberry.

This is a work of art and passion and dedication and sheer delight. Sam writes from a deep philosophical perspective from a life lived close to the earth. He actually lives the new paradigm he talks about: “one of attachment and participation.” And, if ever there was anyone in North America who “tells it like it is,” it’s Sam Thayer. He doesn’t mince his words when it comes to confronting the many mistakes and misconceptions around wild foods. Yet, the book is painstakingly researched and scientifically accurate, supported by a huge array of references. The richness of the information, the beauty and significance of the photographs, and the fierce and spirited defense of wild foods and wild places all combine to make this my number one choice of edible wild plants books.

Nancy J. Turner, PhD, CM, OBC, FLS, FRSC
Distinguished Professor of Ethnobiology, University of Victoria, BC

Teeming with hints and details that you won’t find anywhere else and, most importantly, it has the virtue of making you think. . . this book is alive ! Read it. -Francois Couplan, PhD, world-renown wild food expert, author of more than 40 books on the topic.

Once again, Samuel Thayer has produced a supremely authoritative guide which draws on yet more of his vast experience as a practising forager and first-class field botanist. He writes with refreshing candour, disarming informality, and without any trace of pretence. As with Forager’s Harvest, Nature’s Garden is brim-full with original insights and will become essential reading for all of us who forage in the temperate zone – not just in North America, but right around the northern hemisphere. His total mastery of the subject rings loud and clear from every page, and, together, his two books undoubtedly now set the ‘gold standard’ for the world of foraging literature.

Gordon Hillman
Visiting Professor of Archaeobotany, University College London, UK,
Co-author with Ray Mears of Wild Food [of the British Isles]

Sam Thayer has produced a beautifully illustrated work which anyone interested in wild plants will love. There is the depth that you'd expect in an academic work, but it is written so that anyone can enjoy and learn from it. . . . An excellent addition to your library! -Christopher Nyerges, Author of "Guide to Wild Foods and Editor of Wilderness Way Magazine”

when I recently received a pre-publication copy of Samuel Thayer’s new book, Nature’s Garden, I was quite surprised and delighted. As always when I get something for free I am very skeptical but after opening the cover and browsing through it I realized that this is a keeper. I have over 100 books just on wild plants in my library but this one will get a lot of use and not just take up shelf space as most of the others do.

After several days of reading through different chapters I would say that this probably the best book on foraging for wild plants that I have ever seen. It is the most thorough, comprehensive study of wild foods that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Everything is written in a clear and concise manner. He goes into great detail on the plants, explains where to find them, how to harvest then how to prepare them for food. He also shows comparisons of poisonous look-alikes. The photography in the book is fantastic. I don’t know how anyone could spend that much time or have that much energy and ambition to put into writing such a book. He definitely loves what he is writing about and knows what he is talking about.

This book will be on the top of my list for all of my students.

Marty Simon, Wilderness Learning Center