Nathan Carlos Rupley has been on my radar as a Pennsylvania-based foraging blogger since before I wrote my book, so when he announced his intention to make this video and sought crowd-funding to bring it to life, I was excited for him. Life and obstacles got in the way, and it took him about three years to get the DVD filmed, edited, and finished. There was much suspense.
I anticipated that this would be a high-quality instructional resource because in social media forums, where Nate is active, he has earned a solid reputation as a careful and conscientious educator with great respect for accuracy and discernment, often warning newcomers that foraging resources are not all equal. I agree. Indeed, when foraging started to become a hot topic a few years ago, publishers were eager to cash in and many writers were too, and some people without any experience simply approached it as a reporting gig, putting out articles and books based entirely on other people’s descriptions. The problem is, the Internet is filled with rumors and hearsay and so, amazingly, are some published books! During my own wild food week, I discovered that the oft-touted Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants had led me astray in claiming that plantain was just like Swiss chard. Anyone who has ever eaten plantain leaves knows that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I often see inaccuracies in the press, too. A couple years back, one of the local alternative weekly newspapers here printed an article on edible plants that was shockingly inaccurate, filled with false information. (Why did they not think to consult John Kallas, myself, or other local experts?) This is a subject where discernment is important and firsthand experience is golden.
Nate did not disappoint. I found great value in the beautiful close-up detail he was able to capture with his camera, which magnified minute details that are hard to see on plants with the naked eye, and that is especially useful for older eyes or anyone who is even slightly visually impaired. The clarity of the footage was truly striking and made me feel like I was outdoors in the warm summer sun instead of indoors watching it on cold autumn night in my living room. Nate’s passion for fine art photography is a great asset that has served his film, and viewers, well.
I also enjoyed the gentle guitar strumming that accompanies his voice in the background. Paired with the sun-lit shots of plants, it made me feel transported, like I was in Pennsylvania, relaxing outdoors in the summertime. The information is presented in a very direct fashion. He is straightforward and keeps the focus on the material, no joking around. All the facts and nothing more.
A nice feature is the clickable home screen that allows you to learn about the plants in any order at your leisure. You can mentally nibble on chickweed and then go back to the menu screen and follow your whims to purple dead nettle or wild ginger, as each species is given its own chapter. The DVD can also be watched in one sitting.
I liked this DVD and think of it as an accurate and useful contribution to the sea of foraging resources. Nathan is a good resource because he has personal experience, describing himself in the introduction as “an aspiring hunter-gatherer.” He is careful to tell us that he bases all facts in his DVD on what he has learned from experts who also have documented their extensive first-hand knowledge, including the highly respected Sam Thayer, Steve Brill, John Kallas, Thomas Elpel, Ellen Zachos, and Daniel Moerman. (Full disclosure: To my pleasant surprise, he also recommended my book, Dandelion Hunter, in his concluding chapter in the DVD while offering resources for further study).
I will encourage my apprentices to watch this, and I think it would make a wonderful gift for that survivalist, primitive skills enthusiast or naturalist in your life. You can order it for $10 to $15, depending on your packaging options, through his blog or via his Mycorrhizal Films website here.
Upcoming Events with First Ways:
Winter Solstice Meditation: “Leap Into the Void,” Guided By Ganja!
Join me tomorrow night, Sunday Dec. 20, for a Reiki-infused guided meditation to get to know the plant spirit of ganja. Yes, ganja. In India, the “sadhus,” or devout ascetics, are known for their love of ganja and their frequent smoking of it out of chilams for spiritual purposes. Indeed ganja is considered a holy plant and has been celebrated as a catalyst of peace, bliss, and enlightenment in the east since the ancient times, and even appears in the Vedic texts. “It is only fitting that…the guru to bless us with Shaktipat [psychic transmission of divine grace] comes in the form of an ancient sun-loving plant that has as its most intrinsic attribute the power of consciousness-raising.” – Joan Bello, author of “The Benefits of Marijuana” The event is sponsored by cannabis companies Titrate and Hifi Farms. Space is limited and as you might imagine, this is quite popular. Event details and tickets are here. If you want to come, I highly recommend securing your ticket in advance through that link.