Sunday, September 26, 2010

Review: The Forager's Harvest DVD

Bad picture, great DVD.

Being a teacher of wild edibles, I'm constantly adding to my library of edible wild plant books. Two of the best books out there for new foragers is Samuel Thayer's The Forager's Harvest and Nature's Garden. They go into deep detail on locating, identifying, and preparing foraged foods. Unlike most books that have only one picture of each plant, Thayer includes multiple pictures of the plants throughout their lifecycle which greatly assists in plant identification.

I was very excited to hear he has released a two-volume DVD supplement to The Forager's Harvest. These two DVD cover the identification, harvesting techniques, and preparation of over thirty common wild edibles. Filmed over the course of two years, each plants is shown in multiple stages of it's life. The high-resolution video makes it easy to clearly see the plant details.

Low-res trailer for The Forager's Harvest DVD.

The two best feature of the DVD's are when he shows harvesting techniques and preparation of the foods. Most books only say what is edible and leave it to the reader to figure out how to harvest them. Thayer shows wonderful tricks and easily-made devices to help with harvesting. For instance, most people would try to harvest a long burdock tap root like a carrot, just trying to pull it up. This will break the root, leaving most of it still in the ground. Thayer shows how easy it is to harvest the entire root by digging a hole next to it then pulling it sideways into this hole. His milk jug cattail pollen collector is simply genius.

Of course, the reason to harvest wild plants is to eat the wild plants and Thayer again shares the many methods he's developed over years of foraging. It's one thing to read how to do something, but actually seeing someone do it, such as making sumac-ade or peeling a thistle, is so much better. You see him eat every plant he harvests, along with whatever steps are needed to make the food ready to eat.

I've been foraging all my life but Samual Thayer makes me feel like a novice. I learned something new about every plant he discussed. Someday I hope to hang out with him for a weekend just munching through the woods. But for now I'll have to satisfy myself with rewatching his DVD a few more times. It's kind of ironic that new favorite video to watch while running on the treadmill is about food!

Adventure! Excitement! Burdock!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Classy Merriwether

And by that I mean I taught another edible wild plant class at the Houston Arboretum Saturday morning. There's such a big demand for my class that the arboretum has added another session next Sunday afternoon (Sept. 26th). I forgot to take pictures of the students, but afterwards I spent a while taking photos of many plants and then many hours tonight updating my edible wild plant blog.

Added: Arrow-wood, Gayfeather/Liatris, Lizard's Tail, Pawpaw.
Common Medicinal Herbal Teas under Useful Information.
New pictures for Beautyberry, Elderberry, Marsh Mallow, Passion Vine/Maypop, Turk's Cap.

Adventure! Excitement! Food Everywhere!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Remembering the Two and the 2,977

9/11 comes again and I spend a moment looking up.
The last thing I did before leaving New York was visit
The World Trade Center.
I was carrying a doormat with two big footprints
of a dinosaur. I'd bought it as a gift for my mom.
She gave it back to me when I bought my house.

I spent a long, long time up on the observation deck
taking in the only city I ever liked.
It's a mean city, a smelly dirty city.
A fascinating city.

There was no other view in the world like the view from the top of
The World Trade Center.
Prometheus, coming down from the mountain top
clutching stole fire in his hands
could not feel the joy I felt high above
New York's steel,
New York's concrete,
New York's people.

Honest pride is not a sin.
America's towers were worthy.
And so they were targeted by evil
by primitives
who howl and rampage and bite themselves.

The World Trade Center
I watched it over and over.
People, clasping hands,
because it was better than burning.

I watched over and over scenes
of people cheering
over the falling.

I watched over and over candles
lit around the world
saw tears on the faces of people who
had never been to America
but shared our pain at the loss of
The World Trade Center.

2,977! 2,977! 2,977!

Merriwether on KPFT radio!

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Michael Woodson, host of KPFT radio's "Living Art" program. Hear me babble about feeding my girls bugs, the nutritional value of wild edibles, the effect of the Great Depression on my parents, and my work with Houston Food Everywhere!
Podcast Here.

Adventure! Excitement! Fame!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Paddling Champion Lake

What the heck, we're going to get wet anyway.

It's been over two years since Seeker's Fate has been on the water. Being a fifty year old piece of patch-worked aluminum, taking her out can be an adventure even on mild waters. Luckily, Champion Lake (part of the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge) is pretty mild, as long as you stick to the blazed trails. Of course, when have I ever stuck to the trails?

Okay, so sticking to the marked trails might have been a good idea. We only saw one alligator and a few water snakes, so this was probably quite safe.

Lone Star Chris has been trying to get me out to Champion Lake for several years, but for whatever reasons I never made it. Wow, was I missing a beautiful spot just an hour out of Houston! The place is filled with wonderful flora and fauna, well-marked trails (if that's your thing), tons of hungry fish, and very few people. Lone Star Chris parked himself at a good fishing hole while Clark, Valkyrie, and I continued deeper into the swamp in search of adventure.

LSC loves to fish.

Valkyrie loves paddling.

Clark in the bow seat of Seeker's Fate, Valkyrie in her kayak, and just peeking through the trees comes the first of several rain storms.

Trail blazes were easy to spot as they guided paddlers through the tangled swamp.

Champion Lake2
Cypress trees look surprisingly similar, so it's a good idea to stick to the marked trails if you don't want to get lost.


I had a map but I forgot it in the car. The lake isn't all that big so we weren't to worried about not finding our way out again and spent most of the time talking and laughing our way through the muck. Thankfully there weren't any leeches or mosquitoes around and we were having too much fun talking (and more often laughing) to ever feel any concern. Every little break in the trees beckoned us to see where it might lead.

Hmmm, that's not marked. I wonder where it goes?

Champion Lake
Too pretty to be scary.

A giant lotus root pad. This thing was 20" across!

Eventually we found our way back to LCS and we all headed through the pouring rain to another section of the lake. There was a rock dam that was a nice, (relatively) dry place to rest and stretch our legs some. The rain even let up for a bit, making the break that much nicer.

Valkyrie's kayak and the indomitable Seeker's Fate.

Left to Right: Clark, Merriwether, Lone Star Chris, Valkyrie.

Like I said, LSC loves fish. Perhaps inappropriately.

I caught this one with a rubber worm on my second cast.

Along with the fish, snakes, alligators there's also tons of assorted birds out there, if that's your thing. I'm not a huge bird person so I don't have any pictures of them. Clark is a bird person. Hopefully he'll add a comment about all the different birds we saw.

Champion Lake would be a good place to paddle even in hot weather as most of it is shaded by giant cypress trees and if you stick to the trails the water will always be deep enough, usually three feet in depth. No camping, fires, or firearms are allowed, though they do have lottery system for hunting out there. Being a wildlife refuge, access to certain areas are prohibited during nesting season of some migratory birds, though that more of a late winter to late spring sort of thing. The area is very primitive though it does have several fishing piers and a cement boat ramp, though you are limited to a maximum of 10 horsepower boat motor. There's one portapotty next to the boat ramp, but it's pretty nasty.

A good place to spend a day.

Adventure! Excitement! Swamp!