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Jackson County Master Gardener seminar to focus on edible wild plants


July 17, 2012 at 2:17 a.m.

The Prickly Ash/Toothache Tree is among the plants that will be discussed Saturday at the Jackson County Master Gardeners Association's monthly seminar. Chewing a small bit of the tree's leaves will numb the mouth and lips, according to Mark Vorderbruggen's blog, "Merriwether's Guide to Edible Wile Plants of Texas and the Southwest."

From tasty treats to helpful medicine and everything in between, plant life offers a variety of benefits. And Crossroads residents have the chance to learn those benefits first-hand.

Research chemist Mark "Merriwether" Vorderbruggen will discuss edible wild plants Saturday at the Jackson County Master Gardener Association's monthly seminar.

The Spring native said the seminar will include foraging rules and ethics, recommended books and gear and even a show-and-tell portion, where attendees get an up-close look at the plants.

"Most of it will be on the plants themselves," he said, noting the Houston area has about 60 edible wild plants at any given time of year. "How to prepare them, their medicinal uses, toxicity and what to look out for."

Turk's cap, spiderwort, smartweed and the prickly ash/toothache tree are all plant varieties that will be up for discussion, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension service news release.

Vorderbruggen, who spends his weekends foraging for wild edible plants, has taught classes on the subject at the Houston Arboretum since 2008. His classes at parks and nature preserves began shortly before then.

His blog, "Merriwether's Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Texas and the Southwest," covers everything from recommended reading to detailed lists of plants and what they do.

The extension office organized the seminar after several master gardeners attended one of Vorderbruggen's Houston events, said Mike Hiller, Texas AgriLife Extension agent for Jackson County. They enjoyed the presentation, he said, and wanted to bring it to the Crossroads.

"I think it will be interesting to see what he has to say," Hiller said. "What all is edible, what isn't, and what to be aware of."

The free event takes place at the Jackson County Hospital conference room, state Highway 111 S., in Edna. It is open to the public, Hiller said, noting he expected 30 to 40 guests.

Vorderbruggen, who grew up foraging, said he looked forward to Saturday's event. He encouraged those interested to bring paper and pens for notes, and cameras to document plant samples.

"There's food everywhere," he said. "Just be ready to learn."



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