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Putting foraged food on the table

With the help of some local experts, there’s a culinary world waiting just outside your door.

painted bolete mushrooms on a foraging tour in Asheville

Mycology is right at your fingertips (as are these painted boletes).

Photo by AVLtoday

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The AVLtoday City Editors recently set out on a trek in the meadows and forests of Black Mountain to find some food. No, we hadn’t just gotten lost trying to pick a restaurant for lunch — we were there to forage. Embarking on a three-hour guided foraging journey into the WNC wilderness (or wilderness adjacent), it was time to see what outdoor edibles were on offer. Here’s how it went.

plantain in the grass on a foraging tour in asheville

The bleu cheese-flavored plantain hides among blades of grass.

Photo by AVLtoday

A victual voyage

WNC is home to more than 5,000 species of mushrooms, and although mushrooms are what most tour-goers are hoping for (and what many people think of when you say “foraging”), they certainly weren’t the only edibles we found.

We started by picking dark red wild cherries from a tree near the parking lot and saved some of the branches for a tincture — before a short meadow walk to find plantain, a stringent leaf tasting of bleu cheese, and wood sorrel, a lemony plant with fruit colloquially known as fairy pickles.

mushrooms on a blanket at a foraging tour in asheville

Our guides organized our edible finds and tossed the rest.

Photo by AVLtoday

Once we escaped the heat of the sun for forest shade, the mushrooms were everywhere. Our guides helped us harvest varieties of chanterelles, boletes, leatherback milkcaps, and cauliflower mushrooms — walking us through their characteristics + flavors and how to distinguish edibles from their lookalikes.

At the end of the tour, we settled at a picnic table to taste test the lone beefsteak mushroom and divvy up our culinary spoils. Our walk was slow-paced on mostly level ground and didn’t go far, so it’s a great activity for a wide range of ages and abilities (and you go home with dinner practically set).

chanterelles in the forest on foraging tour asheville

Altogether, we collected about a dozen edibles — including these cinnabar chanterelles.

Photo by AVLtoday

Your own edible expedition

Among the thousands of mushrooms in the area, there are about a dozen deadly varieties and many more that will make you sick — so foraging isn’t something to do alone until you’re an expert. If you’re ready to get outdoors, book a tour through a local company like No Taste Like Home or take a class with Wild Abundance or Wild Goods. You can also join other enthusiasts at the Asheville Mushroom Club.

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