If you found yourself lost in the forest, would you know how to survive? After seeking water and shelter, most would probably hunt for nuts, blackberries, and fruit. A lucky few may find acorns and beautyberries, but the majority would go to bed hungry.
Unfortunately, the fruits and vegetables sold in stores don’t grow naturally in southeast Texas. Instead of going hungry, professional forager Mark Merriwether Vorderbruggen recommends embracing the smorgasbord of edible plants and flowers around you.
“Foraging was a way of life for my family growing up,” said Vorderbruggen. “My parents would take us on walks in the woods every day. And while out there, they would talk about how their parents and grandparents used to harvest this plant for medicinal use and that one for food. For a long time, I actually thought everyone learned this sort of thing from their parents.”
Vorderbruggen has spent decades studying and sampling Texas’ natural bounty, even training under celebrated Texas foragers Carmine Stahl and T.R. Zimmermann.
“When I was in grad school, my knowledge of the different free foods and medicines around me was a huge benefit since I was broke all the time,” he said. “The lessons of my parents served me well. But I quickly realized they had only scratched the surface, and so I ended up trying to learn to identify and use every plant around me.”
Vorderbruggen now runs an educational website and video series identifying edible plants that grow locally and their uses.
Many of those plants grow in Jones Park. Here are five edible plants to look for during your next visit:*
For more information, join Vorderbruggen for a wild edible walk during Jones Park’s NatureFest, held Saturday, March 6, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
*Note: This information is for educational purposes only. Please do not sample wild edibles without a professional present.
Photo attribution: “Courtesy of Mark Merriwether Vorderbruggen”
Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs and Peterson Field Guide to Edible Plants Euell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus.
Books by Samuel Thayer, Ellen Zachos, Charles W. Kane, John Slattery, Pascal Baudar, and Michael Moore.
YouTube videos created by Green Deane (www.eathteweeds.com)