Down but not out.


On April 15th, 2016 while doing my daily bicycle ride around my neighborhood an inattentive person decided their truck needed to be in the same part of the road I already occupied. This resulted in a number of injuries including a brain concussion, cracked ribs, pulled and torn muscles, lots of road rash, and lots of bruises. As I write this one week has passed but unfortunately the injuries remain. The worst of all, in my opinion, is the double vision and dizziness which still remain from the concussion. It is scary to think how much worse this head injury would have been had I not been wearing a bicycle helmet!

Update 05/09/2016: Double vision is still really bad but today I received special glasses with prisms/fresnel lenses which help in realigning what I see into one picture. Ribs are still painful, especially at night. Road rash and bruises have healed. Doctors predict 100% recovery but it'll take time. Presentations start up again May 14th and full classes on May 28th.

Thank you very kindly seedlings for all of your prayers and good wishes.

Idiot's Guide: Foraging is now available!

On April 12th, 2016 my book, Idiot's Guide: Foraging will be released but you can preorder it now!


The cost is $21.95 and the ONLY way that I'll get any royalties from it is if you order it from The Forager's Shack HERE. Kindle version can be purchased HERE for $11.99.

This book covers 70 common plants and mushrooms that are easily found in yards, vacant lots, and small woods all across North America. You won't need to go off into the deep, remote forests for these delicious wild edibles. Each plant is identified in detail with 5-7 big, full-color pictures and if there's a potential dangerous mimic, it is included and pictured, too.

Thirty amazing recipes are also found among the pages of this beautiful book. You'll be making soups, drinks, salads, desserts and other dishes that surpass the expectations of your "foodie" friends. How cool is that?! And don't forget, wild plants are GMO-free!

Introductions and Guidance

Greetings, friend. My name is Merriwether, welcome to my edible wild plants blog. By day I'm a research chemist but my weekends are spent exploring the surprisingly large tracts of wild land in and around Houston. Since the Fall of 2008, I've been teaching teaching an edible wild plant classes at the Houston Arboretum and other parks and nature preserves around Texas.

This blog contains the names and pictures of edible wild plants I've found in my explorations. Each plant has a post listing when and where to find it, which parts are edible, and how to prepare them plus other useful information. All the photographs of these plants were taken by me. These wild edibles can be found around Houston and other areas of Texas, though most of these plants can also be found nationwide and even worldwide.

There are three ways to find a plant on this blog. The first is by common name as listed in the sidebar to the left. On the right sidebar you can look for the plant based on the environment it grows, season, plant type, flower color, fruit or seedpod color, and use. Finally, the blog search box at the top of the page can be used to search for key words such as scientific names.

Foods edible raw have been marked with the Raw label to make them easier to focus on by raw foodists. Please read the plant details to identify which parts of the plant can safely be eaten raw and thoroughly wash any plants, especially if collected from ponds, streams, marshes, or swamps.

I'm a teacher at heart so if you have questions feel free to e-mail me and I'll try to answer them. Also, please read and take to heart the Foraging Ethics. This is to insure that the joy of wild foods remains available to all.

If you like the information found here please help support by purchasing edible wild plant books and gear for a self-sufficient lifestyle from my store, The Forager's Shack.

Peace be with you.

Foraging Ethics

1. Respect the law. You must have permission from the property owner to collect plant matter. To forage without permission is considered stealing and you can be arrested. Most state and federal land prohibit gathering plants except in survival situations.

2. Respect the land. Leave no trace. Fill your holes, pack out your garbage (and garbage left by others), don't hack/slash/smash/burn your way through nature. Don't harvest a plant if there are just a few around.

3. Respect the plant. Please harvest sustainably so that there will be plenty of plants year after year. I've coded each plant with an Abundance tag which are defined as follows:
Plentiful - harvest up to 50% of this plant from the location
Common - harvest up to 30% of this plant from the location
Uncommon - harvest up to 10% of this plant from the location
Rare - harvest only in an emergency or one small bit to taste
Very Rare - harvest only in a dire emergency

Also, don't strip all the leaves from one plant, just take 1 shoot or 2-3 leaves from many plants. Minimize damage to the plants by cutting leaves off the plant with a sharp knife or shears rather than tearing them off. Harvest inner bark using long, thin vertical strips on one side of the tree, do not cut a ring all around the tree which will kill it. Sterilize your cutting tools with alcohol or bleach to prevent transfer of diseases.

4. Respect yourself. Please positively identify any plant before eating it. Eating the wrong plant can lead to illness or in rare circumstances, even death. Also be aware of any environmental hazards in your foraging location such as snakes, bears, or chemical hazards from old oil fields, roadways, lead paint around old buildings or areas subject to flooding from sewers.

The Forager's Shack

Check out The Forager's Shack for the books, videos, and gear I recommend for foragers, gardeners, and people wanting to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle. I only suggest gear I actually use and has my seal of approval so you know your money won't be wasted on junk.

I earn 4%-6% of the value of your purchase from the Forager's Shack, which allows me to maintain and improve this website. Win-win for all of us, don't you think?

Benefits of Foraging

Solvitur ambulando, St. Jerome was fond of saying. "To solve a problem, walk around."
~Gregory McNamee

I forage, which means I walk. It means I bend, stretch, and dig. It means I constantly have access fresh, vitamin packed foods that cost no money. It means I bond with my family, friends, neighbors and complete strangers. This bonding expands past my community and into the heart of nature, whose rhythms I must follow to find the foods I seek.

Foraging requires walking. Often lots of walking, usually while carrying stuff. It also requires bending (usually lots of bending!) digging stuff, climbing stuff, shaking stuff, and occasionally running from stuff. In Texas summers, foraging means carrying lots of heavy water with me as I hunt the wild edibles. The physical labor of foraging greatly surpasses that of pushing a shopping cart down a grocery store aisle! Because of this and also due to the nature of plants themselves, I often burn more calories than I gather when foraging...which isn't a bad thing.

The domestication of plants changed them at a genetic level. They have been bred to remain fresh-looking, resistant to shipping damage, and have a mild flavor, as well as be convenient to harvest and store. In return, these well-trained plants gave up much of their best nutritional compounds. Meanwhile, wild plants have to fight every minute of every day to stay alive. To help them in these battles they load themselves up with a huge selection of chemical warfare agents...agents that we refer to as vitamins, minerals, flavanoids, lycopenes, anti-oxidants and many other beneficial compounds. As I usually harvest and eat the plants within a few hours, they are much, much fresher than any store-bought and even farmer's market-bought foods.

Foragers are the only ones who truly can get a free lunch. My backyard, with nothing more than removing the grass beneath a few pruned branches on which birds perch, has brought forth amaranth, lamb's quarter, dollarweed, chickweed, dandelions, cat's ear, purslane, sow thistle, dwarf palmetto, scarlet pimpernel, pony's foot, and many other edible "weeds". I bought no seed. No water, fertilizer, or pesticides are needed. These plants thrive on neglect, as any gardener could tell you. And at mealtime they are ready and waiting for me and my family. Is there any better food security than this?

But my yard is not big enough to supply all my family's needs. Every evening my two daughters and I walk around the neighborhood and we see lots of wild edibles. Texas law forbids harvesting any plant material from property you do not own without the owner's permission. To be a ethical forager here in Texas means you need to talk to people. It's easy to talk to other family members or friends to ask if you can harvest the spiderwort in their flower beds. It takes much more effort (and charm!) to knock on a stranger's door to ask if you and your children may have the white clover heads from their yard. Over time, we've talked with just about everyone in the surrounding five blocks and while some think I'm crazy, most welcome me and the knowledge I bring. Inadvertently through constant talking with everyone, I became the neighborhood "connector". When Rick needed to a particular tool I knew Bob had, I got the two of them together. When a new family on the block had to leave town for an unexpected emergency, I hooked them up with a trustworthy pet sitter. By the time hurricane Ike hit our neighborhood, most people already knew each other and happily worked together to clean up the wreckage.

Gardeners often talk about their joy of bonding with "nature" but I just smile at that statement. To me, gardeners seem more often at war with nature than bonding with Her. They plant plants that couldn't possibly survive in the wild. They tear up the plants nature gives them. They spread both poisons and fertilizers. They rely on a faucet rather than rain. The main contacts they have with nature is sunburn and mosquito bites.

Without looking at an iPhone app can you tell me what phase the moon will be tonight? With foraging, as the seasons pass new plants become available on nature's schedule, not mine. I needed to learn nature's cycles to find the plants I wanted. But not just the seasonal cycles, but also the relationships between nature and Her plant gifts. Sun, shade, woods, fields, river banks, sandy soil, clay soils...all these influenced what plants would grow in a particular location. As I wrapped myself deeper in this web I saw more and more relationships...for instance, up in the Sam Houston National Forest I discovered that wherever there was sassafras one would also find bull nettle. No plant book has ever mentioned these two plants grow together, yet they do.

And deeper still. The secret to learning edible wild plants is to first identify the plant then search the literature to see if it is edible. In the way you eventually learn most of the plants in your environment, edible or not. As you are out looking at plants you will also find bugs, tracks, and scat. Natural curiosity will drive you to identify these discoveries. Being outside as much as foragers are leads to a heightened weather-sense over time, too. Clouds, wind, and the actions of some insects, animals and plants can all be used to tell what sort of weather is close at hand.

As a forager, eventually you stop getting your entertainment from tv but rather from the sky, the ground, and the people around you. Your physical health improves due to getting exercise and better nutrition. Your mental health improves because you are surrounded by friends, laughter, and have a sense of belonging. Your finances improve because your foods are free, your health

Privacy Statement

I use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit this website. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, click here.