“The human mind is designed to be stimulated by touch, smell, taste, feel. All these sort of things that you don’t get sitting on a couch.” – Dr. Mark “Merriweather” Vorderbruggen
Tips for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse
Just Kidding . . . Not Really.
Recently I met up with Dr. Mark Vorderbruggen at Spring Creek Greenway Nature Center in Spring, Texas for an episode of my Coffee & Cards Conversations video series. Our converstation ran a little long for the video. The info is just too good not to share so we decided to turn the long version into podcast.
Dr. Vorderbruggen, also known as Merriweather, is a research a chemist by profession and wild edible & medicinal plant teacher, outdoorsman, and family man by preference. Originally from the north, he now lives in the greather Houston Texas are with his family. He enjoys permaculture; backpacking; kayaking; car camping with the family; fishing; suburban farming; conservation; Renaissance festivals and is, in his own words, a rabid maker of stuff.
Merriweather offers Wild Edible and Medicinal Plan workshops monthly at the Houston Arboretum and occasionally at Spring Creek Greenway Nature Center. Merriweather’s next Wild Edible Workshop at the Houston Arboretum is January 19, 2014. Visit ForagingTexas.com for a complete list of classes, foraging resources and a searchable database of over 150 Texas edible plants.
Be sure to watch episode 29 (below) of Coffee & Cards Conversations for additional content plus Merriweather’s take on the benefits of foraging.
Coffee & Cards Video 029 Transcription (verbatim):
Kandas: Kandas Rodarte of GratitudeGeek.info sitting here with Dr. Mark “Merriweather” Vorderbruggen. He is a caveman who can eat off the land and he’s going to teach us a little bit how he does that.
So tell me about foraging, what is it?
Merriweather: Foraging, this is simply like you said, eating off the land. Eating the foods from the plants around us that have not been domesticated, have not been planted as a food source but for thousands and thousands of years they were a food source for humans. This includes mainly wild plants but also some landscaping plants.
Kandas: Landscaping plants. So how did you learn about foraging?
Merriweather: Through my parents. Both of them were children of the Great Depression, growing up in a small dairy farm up in Central Minnesota, and at that time there was no money for anyone. And why would the family has got buy when there was wild animals around them? My parents continued to be forages and we grew up and continue to forage around us.
Kandas: So what drives you to teach other people about foraging and wild edible plants?
Merriweather: There’s a world around us that people have forgotten and I love reintroducing that to them. There are not many places left to explore for just your average Joe to go. I mean, we can’t go to the moon. So by showing them the food around them it’s a new world that they didn’t know is around them.
Kandas: There’s no food on the moon.
Kandas: Okay, so tell me some benefits of foraging. Why should we do it?
Merriweather: Well, obviously, there’s nutritional benefit but there’s a lot of other things that people don’t realize. There’s been a lot of studies that show if you get kids out in the woods, out in the wild, off they even actually in the woods for at least a half hour a week, their attention deficit disorder pretty much disappears. The human mind is designed to be stimulated by touch, smell, taste, feel. All these sort of things that you don’t get sitting on a couch. On the other hand, there’s one other thing for older people. They find that walking on uneven ground a lot helps stave off dementia because the mind is still in… it’s like mental exercises.
Merriweather: Those are the two.
Kandas: Those are the two. While you’re out foraging, you’re doing those two things. It’s very groovy. Okay. So if we wanted to have wild edible plants in our own backyard, how would we do that?
Merriweather: This is ways to lure a bird into your backyard. What I did with mine, I just have a basic suburban backyard and I tore up parts of the earth. I had piles of dirt. Put some branches for birds to perch and put a bird bath. No bird feeders. If you put bird feeders the only seeds you’re going to get are what the birds ate from the bird feeder. So the birds will be eating all the wild plants and they’ll come and they’ll deposit the seeds and your piles of dirt as they perch on that stick. And then you just identify as they come up which weeds are edible and which aren’t. The ones that are edible you keep. The ones that aren’t you get rid of.
Kandas: If a person wanted to learn more, do you have some books that you recommend?
Merriweather: Certainly. First obviously is the Peterson’s Guide to Edible Wild Plants (affiliate link). This is probably the most comprehensive plant book out there of wild edible plants. However, it’s not really designed to find the plants. It’s designed that once you find the plant and identify the plant, you look up here and actually see if it’s edible or not.
Kandas: Okay, so you can’t identify. You can only find out if it’s edible.
Merriweather: Now for actually identifying edible plants Samuel Thayer is my favorite author. He has two books: The Nature’s Garden and The Forager’s Harvest. In his book, he actually has multiple pictures of each plant, the leaf, the flower, the bark, the whatever and at different times of the year so you could really get an idea of what it looks like so you can hunt it down and find it.
Kandas: Gee, what about you? Do you have a resource that you offer?
Merriweather: I have… yes, I have a website with over a hundred and fifty, maybe a hundred and sixty different wild edible plants in Texas on there. This website is www.foragingtexas.com.
Kandas: And are they Houston area plants or are they…?
Merriweather: I try and cover all Texas. I’m mainly located in the Houston area but the plants I try and cover all the different edible plants from East Texas all the way up to West Texas.
Kandas: And if people wanted to learn more from you, how would they do that?
Merriweather: I offer monthly classes down at the Houston Arboretum. That’s the park next to Memorial Park downtown Houston. The next one there is January 19th. It’s actually a fund raiser for the Houston Arboretum so you do have to register through their website and they do charge a fee for it but I teach there once a month. I also do private classes and other classes all over Texas.
Kandas: So your next class at the Arboretum is the 19th?
Merriweather: The next one at the Arboretum is the 19.
Kandas: January 19.
Kandas: And if you could recommend just one plant, one edible plant indigenous to Texas to grow in your own backyard what would it be?
Merriweather: Yaupon holly.
Kandas: Yaupon Holly.
Merriweather: The reason being Yaupon Holly is the only naturally occurring source of caffeine that grows in Texas and it’s available all year. It has all the benefits of green tea so it has all the antioxidants and all the caffeine and it taste wonderful.
Kandas: And so if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse and we run out of coffee from the grocery store, we will continue to fill the feed our caffeine addiction.
Kandas: I love it. Yaupon Holly. If you’re afraid of the zombies, plant some Yaupon holly and you’ll never have to worry about caffeine ever.
Merriweather: And you’ll never have to sleep.
Kandas: Well, this has been great. Thank you very much.
Merriweather: My pleasure.
Kandas: I’m going to post some links to your website in a [indiscernible 05:14]. I may even put link on the page. I don’t know. Whatever he does. He’s the magic guy, the magic guy behind the camera. He makes a lot happen.
Merriweather: Hey, magic guy!
Kandas: Thank you so much.
Merriweather: I like his magic hat.
Kandas: Yes, such a very groovy hat he’s wearing today. So be sure to visit my website gratitudegeek.info and we’ll see you next time on coffee and cards conversation.
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