A Gabriola Island resident has gained more than a million followers on social media by “trying to do the very least harm and making the smallest carbon footprint possible.”
Elizabeth Burdock has amassed 1.3 million followers on TikTok and many millions of views and likes on the social media platform for her diverse content.
Known as @whichbetty, her eclectic content series ranges from do-it-yourself fixes, to giving tips for going to music festivals, to vehicle customization projects and “crappy” cooking advice.
Although Burdock values sharing her expertise with festival “newbies” on what to bring and where to camp, she said her foraging content is by far the most popular.
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“The forest is just the place that I feel the safest and the most at home,” said Burdock. “We had a friend of my mom’s visit recently, and he was saying [to me], ‘you’ll always be that feral, barefoot child running through the forest.’ And my husband was like, ‘so nothing’s changed.’”
Now in her early 40s, Burdock said she initially landed on TikTok as a means of ‘spying’ on her teenage daughter to make sure she wasn’t doing anything inappropriate online.
“And I was kinda hooked,” she said, adding the platform would show her targeted content like “moms day drinking” and “other hilarious Gen X stuff.”
“And before I knew it, I was making silly little videos.”
Burdock settled on creating informative videos about native flora, as was her passion, and said plenty of viewers seemed to immediately like it. One of her favourite subjects is plantains, specifically plantago major.
“It’s known as ‘white man’s footprint,’ which is because it came from Europe and it really prefers disturbed grounds and trailways. So people would end up naturally moving the seeds around, and you could always kind of see where people had gone based on where the plantain was growing. It also has an ability to suck poisons out. So if you have a cut or a bee sting, you can chew it up and put your ‘glob’ on your sting or your cut and wrap it up, and it’ll stop it from getting infected.”
Before moving to TikTok, Burdock also ran a YouTube channel called ‘The Vagrant Vegan Show’ in which, while travelling the globe, she would show viewers how they could eat plant-based foods in different parts of the world. Before YouTube, she wrote a blog called ‘How I Freed My Family’ about avoiding the “constraints” of grocery stores by monoculture farming, foraging in the woods, ‘dumpster diving’ and even farming mealworms.
“With the mealworms, it was easy. Because you would freeze them to kill them, and then you could dehydrate or cook them or make them into a flour and just throw them into something. It’s a really sustainable protein source,” she said.
Since becoming an influencer, Burdock has noticed foraging and sustainable living content has swiftly risen in popularity across most major social media platforms. Even in her personal life, she said friends who used to make fun of her for foraging are now reaching out for advice and sharing their own videos.
For ‘newbie’ foragers – or those aspiring to be – Burdock recommends reading and researching first and foremost before taking to the woods.
“I always say to follow your intuition, because once you tune in, it’s like the forest will show you what you need to see and what you need at that moment,” she said. “Try to take no more than 20 per cent of anything … so that we can stay sustainable.”
As for what to avoid when foraging: “Never eat any mushroom that you don’t know. Because while you can eat any mushroom, some of them only the once.”
She also suggested seeking out online community groups and advice from others more experienced living in the area.
Personally, Burdock recommended Facebook’s Vancouver Island Mushroom Pickers and Vancouver Island Mushroom Identification and Info Group – although both are private groups and require approval before joining.
For the rest of the summer, Burdock plans to keep busy travelling the festival circuit, making stops and providing informational sessions at Bass Coast Music and Arts Festival, Rifflandia Music Festival and Cumberland Wild, to name just a few.
Her content will always be varied, Burdock said, since, as her TikTok handle suggests, “you never know which Betty you’re going to get.”