Gibbons was born in Clarksville, Texas, and spent much of his youth in the hilly terrain of New Mexico during the dust bowl era. His mother taught him about foods available in the wild. As an adult he spent time in several states working a variety of jobs. During a stay in Hawaii from 1947 to 1951, he met and married Freda Fryer. Throughout his travels his interest in wild foods continued and he experimented with new recipes and consulted experts.
Although Gibbons longed to be a writer, he had difficulty getting published. However, capitalizing on the growing return-to-nature movement in 1962, his first book, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, became an instant success. From the cover blurb:
A delightful book on the recognition, gathering, preparation and use of the natural health foods that grow wild all about us. The lore here can turn every field, forest, swamp, vacant lot and roadside into a health-food market with free merchandise.
Gibbons then produced the cookbooks Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop in 1964 and Stalking the Healthful Herbs in 1966. He was widely published in various magazines, including two pieces which appeared in National Geographic Magazine. The first article, in the July 1972 issue, described a two-week stay on an uninhabited island off the coast of Maine where Gibbons along with his wife Freda and a few family friends relied solely on the island's resources for sustenance. The second article, which appeared in the August 1973 issue, features Gibbons, along with granddaughter Colleen and grandson Mike, stalking wild foods in four western states.
Gibbons's publishing success brought him fame. He made guest appearances on The Tonight Show and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Susquehanna University, even though he had only completed the equivalent of a sixth-grade education.
A 1974 television commercial for Post Grape-Nuts cereal featured Gibbons asking viewers "Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible." While he recommended eating Grape Nuts over eating pine trees (Grape Nuts' taste "reminds me of wild hickory nuts"), the quote caught the public's imagination and fueled his celebrity status. Johnny Carson joked about sending Gibbons a "lumber-gram", and Gibbons himself joined in the humor; when presented with a wooden award plaque by Sonny and Cher, he good-naturedly took a bite out of it. (The "plaque" was actually an edible prop.)
Often mistaken for a survivalist, Gibbons was simply an advocate of nutritious but neglected plants. He typically prepared these not in the wild, but in the kitchen with abundant use of spices, butter and garnishes. Several of his books talk of his self-described "wild parties": dinner parties where guests were served dishes prepared from plants gathered in the wild. His favorite recommendations included lamb's quarters, rose hips, young dandelion shoots, stinging nettle and cattails. He often pointed out that gardeners threw away the more tasty and nutrient-rich crop when they pulled such weeds as purslane and amaranth out from among their spinach plants.
Euell died on December 29, 1975. His death was the result of a ruptured aortic aneurysm, a complication from Marfan syndrome.