It truly is amazing how knowledge affects our perception. Just a little over a year ago, I remember declaring a full-out war on any weed trespassing into my yard. I was taken aback by one gardener who was so relaxed about some of the weeds mixed in with her vegetable plants. Also, visits to a ranch with natural vegetation were seen as an opportunity to catch up on my crocheting projects rather than exploring.
Not until the Spring of ’16 did my thinking change. That was when my sister-in-law and I signed up for a foraging course together. My intent was to absorb enough information to survive an EMP attack until civilization could be restored. Instead, I learned to look at my surroundings with a different set of eyes.
Mark Vorderbruggen (a.k.a. Merriwether) led the workshop. His presentation on foraging was so informative that my sister-in-law and I recently signed up for another workshop of his.
It was during this second workshop that I realized how much I had learned from the first. I was able to recognize a few “weeds” that just over a year ago were nameless to me. In retrospect, that first class inspired me to start spending more time outside trying to find the plants that he showed to us. I remembered the excitement with which I had correctly identified a plant for my husband. What is more, I knew how to use it.
The class lasted for three hours. Merriwether initiated the class by introducing himself, laying out the basic “before you begin…” information, and offering resources for furthering your education. Afterwards, the group was led on a walk around the premises as Merriwether searched for specimens to share with us.
Unlike gathering foraging information from a book, which would show plants not even in your own area, Merriwether casually strolled along pointing out plants we lived with on a day-to-day basis. The nicest part of the workshop was that he didn’t stage any of the plants. These plants were the ones we would see and should recognize.
As he discovered a plant, he’d pull it out for us to feel, smell, and observe. As we were passing the plant around, he would list the benefits or hazards, uses, where to find, etc. He was a wealth of information, but if he happened not to know an answer, he didn’t hesitate to say that he didn’t know.
Both my sister-in-law and I learned many things from the class, and we will probably sign up for another class in the future. It was definitely a morning well spent, and I would highly suggest it no matter what you intend to do with the information.
However, if you are not fortunate enough to have a course offered in your area, you can actually find Merriwether and his wealth of information. Find him at Merriwether’s Foraging Texas Facebook where he regularly posts pictures of plants. Also, you can visit his website: Foraging Texas.