Welcome to First Ways, where you can join in me in unlocking the ancient secrets of wild plants all around us. My goal is to inspire and empower everyone to connect with nature and experience the joyful remembrance of who we really are.
My name is Becky Lerner and I am one of the best-known urban foragers in North America, as seen in the Los Angeles Times, Oregonian, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Portland Monthly magazine, Utne Reader website, Adbusters online, a wide array of local newspapers, websites, radio, and TV. I am the author of the book DANDELION HUNTER: Foraging the Urban Wilderness, an entertaining and informative nonfiction narrative about my adventures foraging for food, medicine, and survival in Portland, Oregon, published April 2013 by Globe Pequot Press.
Recently, I have spoken about foraging for survival preparedness, herbalism, and sustainability at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland Plant Medicine Gathering, ResiliencePDX, Cannon Beach History Center & Museum, and more. I also teach classes on urban plant identification, medicine making, and plant-spirit healing, and I will be joining the guest faculty of the Virtues of Healing Institute of Integrated Studies in 2015.
Additionally, I have an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Rutgers University. As a journalist, I have written for dozens of outlets across the country, including The Oregonian, Orion magazine, Syracuse New Times, and the Discovery Channel’s website.
DANDELION HUNTER is available wherever books are sold, including Amazon and Powell’s, and you can get an autographed copy directly from the author here. Find tour dates, a synopsis, excerpts and more at http://DandelionHunter.com.
In addition to speaking, teaching, and writing, I am also a Reiki healer.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How do I get in touch with you?
Write me at RebeccaELerner@gmail.com
Can I write a guest post?
No. I rarely accept guest posts, and when I do, they’re written by close friends who have expertise in foraging and herbalism that I can vouch for. This website is known for its accuracy, and I like to keep it that way.
How did you get into foraging?
I was learning about wilderness survival with Primitive Pursuits while spending a year in Ithaca, NY, when I caught the botanical bug.
The following year, when I moved across the country to Portland, I met my friend Emily Porter, an experienced botanist and herbalist who worked as an educator for TrackersNW. She taught me many, many skills, from plant identification to medicine making and sustainable harvesting. It was a wonderful learning experience that I have since continued on my own with tall piles of books and plenty of hands-on experimentation — “dirt time,” as some call it. The more I learn, the more fascinated I become.
Do you eat wild food all the time?
In the spring, I eat tons of stinging nettle. Nettle pesto, nettle quiche, nettle smoothies, nettle soup, nettle everything. In the summer, I love to pick berries and makes jams and syrups. In the fall, I like making chestnut flour. I enjoy wild edibles as a special ingredient, whether making a green smoothie, the occasional sidewalk salad, dandelion leaf curry stir-fry, or elder flower fritters. I also like harvesting wild plants for herbal medicines I make myself. It is very empowering to know that I can take care of common ailments at home for myself and my dog, from the flu to strep throat.
That said, wild plants are supplemental to my diet, rather than a staple, for many reasons. Full-time urban foragers are actually quite rare, even among professional educators. One reason is seasonality — the most nutritious and caloric plant parts are fruits and nuts, which are available only a few months per year — and another is the scarcity of bulk sources of wild plants in the city. A third and probably most important issue is the time required to gather and process wild food, which is an issue for anyone with obligations other than being a full-time hunter-gatherer. Interestingly, anthropologist Robert L. Kelly writes in his scholarly book “The Foraging Spectrum,” that today no foragers anywhere in the world eat an entirely wild diet, and that this probably has been the case for hundreds if not thousands of years, because of widespread trade. Whether you are a bushman in the Kalahari or an urbanite in Portland, you probably buy some farmed foods. However, I think our cities are ripe for creative solutions for propagating wild edibles and expanding public foraging spaces, such as supporting a public commons for foraging, as demonstrated by Seattle’s budding food forest.
I think the most fun aspect of foraging is the gathering itself, the wildcrafting. It’s a great way to develop a deeper relationship with the land around me and a sense of the changing seasons. And not just the land — I like to experience wild animals as my peers and feel something in common with the people who lived here before modern times.
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