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 experience the joyful remembrance of who we really are.
My name is Becky Lerner, and I’m the Portland, Oregon-based blogger behind First Ways. I am that urban forager and herbalist you may have seen on the national TV shows “Brew Dogs” on Esquire Network and “Dark Rye” on Pivot Network; as well as on OPB TV in Oregon, NPR stations in Oregon and Washington, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, Portland Monthly magazine, Orion magazine, Utne Reader, OPB TV, The Oregonian, and many other outlets. I’m also the contributor of the Pacific Northwest plants for the e-field guide that is Steve Brill‘s wonderful “Wild Edibles” iPhone/Android app.
And, I’m the author of the book “Dandelion Hunter: Foraging the Urban Wilderness,” (March 2013, Globe Pequot Press), which Publishers Weekly called “the funniest herbal adventure you’ll ever read.”
I love sharing my botanical knowledge through presentations and private classes for groups, individuals, universities, museums, businesses, and much more, with guided nature walks on plant identification and uses, medicine making workshops, herbal smoking blends instruction, and guided meditations for plant spirit work.
Plants are my passion and I enjoy working with them in all ways, especially metaphysically in my practice as a Reiki master healer (please visit me at: Plant Spirit Reiki). I am excited to announce that I’ll be joining the guest faculty of the Oregon-based Hawthorn Institute in 2015.
How do I contact you?
Write me at RebeccaELerner@gmail.com
Can I write a guest post?
Sorry, I do not accept guest posts nor advertisements.
May I use a photo from your site?
For educational purposes or media (including blogs), yes, and please credit me as Becky Lerner/FirstWays.com in the caption. For commercial purposes, only with permission — email me at RebeccaELerner@gmail.com.
What’s your formal education?
I earned an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College and a BA in philosophy from Rutgers University. I have five years of experience as a folk herbalist, and currently I am studying professional herbalism under Michael & Lesley Tierra at the East West School of Planetary Herbology, which focuses on Traditional Chinese Medicine but embraces the value of all herbal traditions. I have been primarily self-taught out of books (strongly influenced by Michael Moore and Gregory Tilford especially) and attended classes in primitive wilderness skills, plant identification, and plant spirit meditation at Primitive Pursuits in Ithaca, NY, TrackersEarth in Portland, OR, and the School of Forest Medicine, respectively (among others!). My first mentor was Emily Porter, who taught me plant identification and medicine making.
I initially was drawn to study plants from a survivalist perspective, and viewed wild plants as disaster food, or just-in-case apocalypse insurance. I have since become fascinated with plants in a broader way, particularly the medicinal and metaphysical end of things. I consider myself a perpetual learner in this vast subject and am always discovering more fascinating dimensions!
How did you get into foraging?
I got into foraging when I was learning about wilderness survival skills. I wanted to know how to eat without grocery stores. For the most part, I’m self-taught, having read the truly excellent books by Wildman Steve Brill and Sam Thayer and researched ethnobotany, and then applied to myself to lots of experimentation — what some call “dirt time.”
I do it more than anything to commune with nature. Also largely as a creative endeavor, for the sake of fun and adventure. I see it as a journey of discovery through an incredibly biodiverse planet. I love trying new plants I’ve never tasted before, unlocking the secrets of amazing medicines disguised as common plants, and learning the ancient uses of each new species that catches my fancy. I enjoy adding occasional foraged foods into the mix to make unique dishes, like stinging nettle quiche, chickweed pesto, chestnut flour pancakes, or paw paw ice cream.
On my blog I document my adventures, and I cover herbal medicine making, plant crafts, smoking blends and other fun things as much as I talk about food uses. If you’re looking for more of a culinary take on the subject, then check out my fellow wild food colleagues “Butter“, Wild Food Girl, Hank Shaw, and Langdon Cook.
Do you eat wild food all the time?
No, because of the time and difficulty involved — I’m a busy person with many projects going on. But I’ve tried it. See my book, “Dandelion Hunter,” for more info on that. (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 and also the incredible amount of time it takes to gather all your food if you mean to do it exclusively. Whether you are a bushman in the Kalahari or an urbanite in Portland, you probably buy some farmed foods.)
Before I got into the plant world, I used to be a newspaper reporter.
“Sour Milk: Big Box Dairy Farms Bring Manure & Misery to Some Central NY Communities” The Syracuse New Times
A narrative investigation into disturbing reports of dairy pollution and illness
“Do-it-yourself herbal” The Oregonian
A look at herbal medicine in Portland
“Take It Outside” The Ithaca Times
How does the experience of nature-immersion affect urban children?
“Outlaw Cuisine” Utne Reader
On eating roadkill
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