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 this website and 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’m also one of the best-known foragers in North America and often appear in the media: on the national TV show “Brew Dogs” on Esquire Network, 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 more.
A former newspaper reporter from New Jersey, I now make my living teaching classes on edible and medicinal wild plants and sharing my botanical knowledge with schools, nonprofits, museums, private groups, businesses, and individuals. I also work as a Reiki healer (see: http://PlantSpiritReiki.com) I will be joining the guest faculty of the herbal medicine school Virtues of Healing Institute of Integrated Studies 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.
What’s your formal education?
I have a MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College and a BA in philosophy from Rutgers University, but when it comes to studying useful wild plants, I’m mainly self-taught out of books and experience for six years. At the moment, I’m also a student in Michael Tierra’s East West School of Herbology. I consider myself a perpetual learner in this vast subject and am always discovering more fascinating dimensions.
I initially was drawn to study plants from a survivalist perspective, and viewed wild plants as disaster food, or just-in-case apocalypse insurance. But I have since become fascinated with plants in a broader way, particularly medicinal uses both for the flesh and the spirit.
How did you get into foraging?
I got into foraging when I met my friend Emily Porter, an experienced botanist and herbalist who worked as an educator for Trackers in Portland, Oregon. She has since moved to Pennsylvania.
Before I met Emily, I also studied wilderness survival in the nine-month apprentice program at Primitive Pursuits in Ithaca, NY. For the most part, I’m self-taught, via books and “dirt time.”
I do it more than anything for the sake of fun and adventure. I see it as a creative pursuit, and 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 lady 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.)
A Sample of My Published Writing
“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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