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It finally looks like fall in the beautiful NC mountains. The sky is Carolina Blue, the air is crisp and clear, and temps are in the high 50s and low 60s. We celebrated with a foraging tour in Hendersonville. With the expert guidance of Jillian from No Taste Like Home, we ventured into the woods on and off the trails at Bullington Gardens in a search for edible mushrooms as well as edible plants, berries, and nuts.
We’d had so much rain recently my expectations were low, I expected anything to be worth eating to have washed away, but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and quantity we found. During the 3-hour tour, the company claims they want to take you “out to eat” and they aren’t kidding. We touched, tasted, and smelled. From the creamy Kousa Dogwood berry, wintergreen scented Sweet Birch twigs, the pleasant Wood Sorrel clover-like ground cover, to Plantain leaves (not the banana-like plant), and Smartweed we sampled much of what nature, and even own mountain yard, has to offer.
After an interesting orientation, we set off with basket and brifes in hand. A “brief” is a real thing – a tool that combines a brush and a knife. They are used to dig up or cut the mushroom and brush off any dirt or insects. Jillian lives daily with her foragers’ philosophy and was well-versed on the medicinal qualities of herbs – pointing out plants with unique healing characteristics. She also made delicious acorn cookies for us to sample; they were similar to ginger snaps.
We even had a little time to hunt on our own.
Back from our independent foraging, we gathered to sort the edible from the non, and learn more details. Jillian’s assistant Hannah began sautéing some Leatherback Mushrooms and we enjoyed a delicious treat. We had enough of the wonderful Chanterelle Mushrooms to each bring back a stash to cook on our own* as well as a couple of recipes to try.
I learned a lot, but mostly I will continue to respect the intricacies of nature and let the experts direct what we should select from the forest. Among our harvest were many inedible varieties. Some, even though not edible, are beautiful and I felt lucky to find a striking Turkey Tail Mushroom that I am content to simply observe.
My dinner guests, however, may see Wood Sorrel garnishing their plates in the future . . . .
*several Asheville restaurants will cook-up a complimentary appetizer with the foraged goodies, but you need to plan to drop them off the day prior and return for a meal the following day
For details and a tour schedule check out http://www.NoTasteLikeHome.org
Note that locations for the foraging experience vary but are all near Asheville, NC; registrants are provided details about where to meet a couple of days earlier. The day before our tour, guests foraging near the Grove Park Inn shared the woods with a Black Bear.
Tours are morning or afternoon. We went in the afternoon and since we were foraging in Hendersonville lunched at Never Blue – a delightful, eclectic, funky spot right downtown. The food was wonderful.
We returned to Lake Toxaway this year, at the invitation of good friends (thanks!) and once again had some wonderful new adventures. Who doesn’t love a mountain lake? And we enjoyed the hospitality of another Florida friend when he gave us a first-rate boat tour. It was interesting to learn about the history of some of the beautiful lake-front estates and even more interesting to hear current neighborhood tidbits. We even saw a bear scouting for food just below the deck of the house.
As a preservation advocate, I’m always up for anything historic and we visited the Cashiers Designer Showhouse, Fox Tail, presented by the Cashiers Historical Society. I wasn’t that thrilled with the showhouse, but enjoyed the 1920 cottage on the 42-acre property that was also open to tour. The Historic Lawrence Monteith Cabin was open as a joint venture with the Glenville Area Historical Society.
The three-bedroom house still has the original doors and windows with rope pulleys. The sawmill that provided the boards to build the house and the original farm fields were covered by Lake Glenville in 1941. Although electricity and plumbing were added in the 1940s, the three-bedroom home never had an indoor bathroom.
It was a nice glimpse into past mountain living.