We own several great books about foraging and mushrooming, and are often asked which are our favorites. I will try to spend the non-productive winter months reviewing some of these great resources, and making recommendations. Most of these books are available on Amazon, some are available directly from the author as signed copies, some from the publisher, and many we get used from Alibris.
This is the book I reach for most often when presented with a ripe berry or fruit I am unfamiliar with. It covers a 3-state region in the upper midwest, but many of the fruits and berries found there are also found here in southern New England. This is my book of choice because of how it is organized: by the color of the berry or fruit. This simple, visual way of putting the book together makes for fast reference, and the overall small dimensions (4 1/2" x 6") of the book make it easy to carry out into the field.
Wild Berries and Fruits: Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan by Teresa Marrone
The identification process starts with the berry or fruit color, easily referenced and arranged by colors on a tab in the upper, left corner of each page. Other icons along the top of the text page include type of plant (is it a shrub, a tender leafy plant, a vine), how the leaves are arranged (whorled, alternate, opposite), the season when the berry or fruit is ripe, and a small map of distribution. The text then goes on to describe the habitat, growth, leaves, fruit, and season for the specimen, along with some look-a-likes and additional notes. The entire right page is a color photo of the plant, usually including leaves and ripe fruit, sometimes including a small, inset photo of the unripe fruit. Common and Latin names are given for each specimen. As a forager, the most important piece of information is the edibility of the fruit or berry, and that is clearly noted with an additional band next to the color tab indicating whether the specimen is edible, not edible, delicious, or toxic.
|leaves, stems, flowers|
Teresa Marrone has written several comparable books for 2 other geographical regions: Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, and for Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Depending on where you are located, you may be able to get a book better suited to your region. Teresa Marrone has also written several books on cooking with the berries and fruits of those geographical regions, along with books on cooking other wild edibles, game cooking, using a slow cooker, and camp cooking. A biography of her and her work can be found here.