Those aren’t just weeds — they’re food, too

Mark Suter takes his meals outdoors. Literally.

The Texas native operates Primitive Texas, which teaches survival skills in the wild, including identifying and enjoying wild plants. He is also the author of “Edible Wild Plants of Texas (Non-woody Species)” and will be offering a workshop on edible wild plants Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Vermilionville.

It’s part of the historic park’s Les Mains Guidées, or “Guided Hands,” program that highlights Cajun and Creole crafts and folkways.

Although Suter focuses on southeast Texas in his work and book, he believes most of the species found west of Louisiana’s border can also be found here.

“About 97 percent of them (edible plant species) grow in Louisiana,” Suter said.

The July 12 workshop will be Suter’s first foray into Louisiana. Usually his classes are two hours, where participants identify and eat wild edible plants. The Lafayette workshop will be more intensive, with an emphasis on plant characteristics, cooking preparation and how to spot poisonous varieties.

“It will be very hands-on,” Suter said. “People will be sampling plants.”

Some of the plants Suter will look for on the grounds of Vermilionville are cattails, which are used medicinally but also offer parts that are edible, wild lettuce, green briar and wild fruit such as mulberries, persimmon and wild plums.

“I have no doubt there will be a lot,” Suter said.

The cost of the workshop is $50, and it is open to all ages.

Suter reached out to Vermilionville to offer the class, said Jolie Johnson, who directs Les Mains Guidées, a monthly series at the museum.

“He was looking to expand his classes, and we thought it would be a great fit for Vermilionville,” she said.

Suter became interested in edible wild plants as part of a survival education.

“One day, I decided I wanted to take care of myself in the woods so I started studying edible plants and survival skills,” he said.

Wild edible plants are everywhere, Suter insists, and are much more nutritional than store-bought fruits and vegetables. Foraging for wild plants has also become popular.

“People are interested in all aspects of survival now because of the many TV series and also because of movies like ‘Hunger Games,’ ” he said. “More and more people are interested in edible wild plants, especially because you don’t have to be a survivalist to enjoy them.”

Most backyards include about five to 10 edible plants, Suter said, including dandelions, chickweed, purslane and wild geranium. Those pesty dandelions we view as weeds, for instance, may be dug up young, roots and all, and cooked for seven minutes to produce a meal.

“It’s delicious,” Suter said of dandelions. “It’s kind of like spinach or parsnips or collard greens. It’s very, very good, but you have to get them young.”

Suter hopes to do more workshops in Louisiana. His next class is a three-day survival class along the Texas coast below Port Arthur.

To register, contact Johnson at (337) 233-4077, ext. 211, or email vville@bayouvermilion district.org. For information on Primitive Texas, visit www.primitivetexas.com.