Wild times

Posted on: November 26th, 2014 by Alan

Many years ago, I was teaching at a local community college. A participant was asked, “would you take another course with this instructor?” She answered, “yes, if he continues to live.”

LEAF c1996This image is from one of the first LEAF festivals, circa 1996. Can you believe next year will be my 20th year of teaching wild foods? Good thing I’ve been taking reishi. That’s what I’m holding, a.k.a., the “the mushroom of immortality.” It’s one of our first mushrooms in the spring…


A special offer

I will be leading all outings next season. All tour dates — Wednesdays and Saturdays, April to October — are open for enrollment. The price will be $75. Until Tuesday, we’re offering 25% off the first 75 tickets sold. That’s less than this past season’s price!

Do you really want to learn wild foods? You can’t do it in one outing. Stock up on gift certificates for you and your friends. Now is the time! For the discount code, see here. Offer ends Tuesday.


A-morelsTake your pick

Can’t do Wednesdays or Saturdays? You can now schedule a tour on any day of the week for as little as $75. We’ll work on getting other people to join you. For details, see here.

The season opens with ramps and morels. For something really special, book a visit to my secret morel spot. Need lodging? We now have packages with Aloft and with The Wright Inn. Can’t wait till spring? I do indoor talks on half a dozen topics, show and smell, cooking demos, and more.

For more news and special offers, “Like” us on Facebook. We’ll be announcing our upcoming events at Camp Golden Valley (home of Defiant Whiskey), Kindred (Charlotte’s new forage-to-table restaurant), The Greenbrier, and Old Edwards Inn, one of the top three resorts in the country and one of the top 25 in the world (Travel+ Leisure).


Teach your children

Did you know that Asheville has one of the worst childhood hunger problems in the country? Wild food is a sustainable solution. We believe that all children should be able to feed themselves: that foraging should be taught as a basic skill.

Asheville-MiddleThis season, we were privileged to work with Asheville Middle School, Hall Fletcher Elementary, Evergreen Community Charter School, The Girl Scouts, and the YMCA. We’re getting more invitations than we can handle. Here’s how you can help — for free!

Our tours fund our youth program. To support our work, buy a gift certificate. Don’t have money to spare? Reviews help fill our tours. If you’ve been “out to eat” with us, give us a review. You don’t even have to write it: just call our dedicated Tastymonial™ hotline. We will type it up for you. That’s almost as easy as foraging. Please call 315-FORAGER today.


Get involved

ZA red chantsWe are lining up a small team of interns for next season. Opportunities include:

• assisting with tours
• harvesting and/or processing wild foods
• scouting out natural areas for tours
• hotel outreach: distributing brochures, making connections, etc.

Learn by doing: it’s the only way!


Looking back

kousa dogwood

kousa dogwood

I’m thankful for another busy season. This year, I spoke on 9/11 at The U.S. Botanic Garden (next to the Capitol building) on “Home/Land Security.” I took out The 2014 James Beard Best Chef of the Southeast, a Vice President of The American Heart Association, and the “Queen of Versailles.” We were featured in USA Today, Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, The Washington Post, Yahoo Travel, Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, and many other publications.

Thank you to all our guides this season: Abby, Marc, Sandi, Seth, and Josh. Thanks to Alyssa (three photos up) and Rebekah (offering us dogwood fruit) for keeping me sane (or something close). To Ryan for running the market. And thanks to all our assistants: Kenny, Rachel, Jennifer, Nick, Rosiland, Eileen, Verena, Stewart, and Julia. For photos of our recent outings, visit our Facebook page.


Out of the baskets of babes


Monkey business

Posted on: August 25th, 2013 by Alan

I’ve always loved the bumper sticker some guy down the street has peeling off his old pickup, “WOODFIN OUTLAW.” We’ve seen bears and coyotes here, and a couple years ago, the FBI raided our house, but this weekend gives the phrase new meaning.

Yesterday, two neighbors spotted a monkey on my street. One neighbor “swears on his life” that he saw it bounce three times across the driveway into my backyard. Three police cars showed up and asked my neighbor, “mam, are you keeping a monkey?” Animal Control set up two big traps with bananas. The next morning, the bananas were gone.

Once when I was about five years old in South Miami, in the tree behind my house, I saw a monkey. Nobody believed me. That night, they said on the news that some monkeys had escaped from the zoo.

Of course all of us here at No Taste Like Home are excited about this latest addition to our main office. If you see our monkey or have a recommendation for a name, please let us know.  The word is that it has a very long tan tail. That way you can know that if you see it, you’ve seen our monkey as opposed to any other monkey.

image from internet, not my yard

Greer just came home with some bananas. Stay tuned…

So much to celebrate

Posted on: May 22nd, 2013 by Alan

It’s my birthday this week and I have so much to be thankful for. For starters, our first forage-to-table dinner at The Biltmore was a success, my wild foods dinner with James Beard chef Andrea Reusing in Chapel Hill sold out, and participants in a few private outings, despite our unusually late spring, managed to find a few morels.

Biltmore_group   Reusing   morel_photo

the_mushroom_manLast month, Susan Murray of Carolina B&B found a cool parasitic mushroom I’ve found only twice in nearly twenty years. She’s written a great review of the day, including pictures of the bug-mummifier, along with rare footage of The Mushroom Man.

Thanks to attorneys at Alston and Bird, No Taste Like Home will be a 501c3 nonprofit by this Fall. Our goal is, by 2030, to have every child in the U.S. be able to recognize the top ten wild foods in their area. We start our free foraging public school class for middle schoolers in July.


To put our goal into context, see this trailer to a new documentary about our rampant “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Imagine kids foraging instead of playing video games; we’d be addressing ADD, SAD (the Standard American Diet), and childhood obesity all at the same time.


Our new wild foods market will fund the public school program, and our newly-trained harvesters will, in turn, supply the market. This is a model for a local, sustainable green industry that can solve our hunger problem once and for all, with children making money for their families and building their self-esteem in the process. Over 100 volunteers and two dozen organizations have signed up to help.

Table Restaurant has joined Zambra in hosting our ‘catch of the day’ dinners, free to anyone attending our outings; more info here. Curate is scheduled to come on board after a staff training next month.

Last winter, I consulted for Fairchild Tropical Gardens on their next annual national Fairchild Challenge and their international Fairchild Global Challenge. Both may have a wild foods/homesteading skills theme with a “Foxfire” intergenerational interview format. I also got a grant from Foundation for the Carolinas to explore growing forest-based mushrooms as a way to regenerate endangered ecosystems.

I just got back from a short but packed trip to NYC. I went on a private outing with forager Steve Brill for the staff at The Bedford Post Inn owned by Richard Gere. Gere’s wife, actress Carey Lowell, was there, and when I stayed for dinner, Meg Ryan was at the table beside us. They invited me to come back and teach there this fall.

AppLogoSteve has a new foraging app out for Apple devices. There’s a free lite version and the full version is only $8. Far better than any book, but still no match for a human. Remember, when in doubt, ASK.

james_beard_dinner_copyWhile in NY, I also attended a wild foods dinner at the James Beard House put on by Daniel, one of the top restaurants in the world. I was a guest of their official forager, Tama Wong (thank goodness; it was $180 a plate). Tama is coming to Asheville this summer to teach with me for The Market Place; stay tuned.

That morning, I met with the chef for Blue Hill, which just won a James Beard award, and it’s likely I can also do an event at their famous farm-to-table location, Stone Barns, this fall. Dan Barber, the owner, has been listed by Time as one of the most influential people in the world, and he asked how he could support my work. Then I had lunch with Ava Chin, wild foods columnist for The New York Times and author of an upcoming book on foraging, who I’ll be teaching with when I return to NY this September.


Back in WNC, I went foraging with Aurelia Kennedy, founder of Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), shown here munching on watercress. I’ll be talking with the CEO of NOC about back-to-nature children’s programs next month.


Earlier this season, I met with the Program Director at the U.S. Botanical Garden and they want me to teach there in September. I also met with our attorneys in charge of legal (USDA/FDA regulation) issues and taught at Jim Duke’s Green Pharmacy Garden.

A week before that, the wild foods market was covered by Reuters; the article went out to 13,000 news outlets in 130 countries. I’ve always wanted to make it into The Borneo Bulletin. No calls from there so far. 🙁

Remarkably, my coverage in The Raleigh News & Observer seems to have gotten even more mileage, somehow showing up on the World News Network’s page for China under “Falun Gong.” I hope I don’t get plasticized.

Back iBreadseed-Pollyn March, this lovely new foraging cookbook broke a Kickstarter record, raising over $100k. I never got around to finishing my own book this winter, but I’m dead set on doing so this year. Wish me luck, and more importantly, discipline!


The squealing wheel

Posted on: February 2nd, 2013 by Alan

For my critique of the Field to Fryer to Fuel Tank project and more than you ever wanted to know about canola, biodiesel, and black walnuts, see here

On the wild side

Posted on: December 24th, 2012 by Alan

John DoeEarly this year, the AP put out the video short, “Urban forager subsists on squirrel.” You call that urban? Here on the right is what goes down on my side of town. Someone put a dent in that rodie. You know what I’m sayin?

Don’t get me wrong: the video’s still worth watching. Just be prepared for Chip and Dale “before and after.” You’ll see what I’m sayin. Definitely not for the nine piece bucket brigade. Watch what the son does at 1’15”. Wouldn’t you?

homeyWhat? You want some more? For the word on the street, check this out. This is how it is on the wild side.

It’s gettin’ REAL in the wild foods parking lot…


Still glowing strong

Posted on: October 22nd, 2012 by Alan

Spent the weekend taking Andrew Weil around and teaching at The LEAF Festival. Finally got up to pee at 6:30 this morning and something was glowing at my feet. My phone? No, that’s on the dresser. My computer? No, that’s on the desk. A bomb?

When I’m half-asleep in the pitch dark, anything’s possible. I reached down slowly, half-afraid to touch and set it off. First I hit something hard: my basket. Then cloth: my mushroom rap outfit. And under that, something cool and pliable. A mushroom! The jack-o-lantern! I took it out and it was glowing green as strong as a battery-charging light spread across a mushroom. It was ratty from the ride home, and yet, after a day and a half at the bottom of my basket, it was still glowing strong. I tried taking pictures with my phone camera: didn’t work, so here’s a photo and a video someone else has made instead — just in time for Halloween.

I laid the “radioactive mushroom” on my pillow beside me, and the thought occurred to me: no one knows why these things glow. Maybe, like the crop circles, they have something to say! So I laid it on my third eye and waited.

Now, I know this is a very toxic mushroom– not only do the gills glow green, but if you eat it, you’ll be “green in the gills” too (as one chef found out two months ago). But something doesn’t have to be edible to be valuable. This mushroom, in fact, is not only good to dye with (that’s D-Y-E), but it’s being studied for cancer.

So I didn’t think the mushroom was evil. Still, as I let it beam its smoldering bioluminescence into my head, I was a little bit scared. Fortunately, I’m not too old to be stupid, and like they say, “only those who do nothing make no mistakes.”

And so, lying in the dark, as the mushroom fried my brain, I tried listening. Being a triple gemini, however, my mind wouldn’t shut up, and someone who’s constantly talking isn’t going to hear much. So next, I tried laying the evil mushroom on my heart. And I started to calm down, probably just from sitting still (or the mycocardiophathic effects). Otherwise, not much came obviously from that. My lower back was sore from dancing, so I turned over and placed it on that. And I got distracted writing notes. Five minutes later, sore back.

Maybe I’m just impatient, but I encourage others more in tune to try this. Let me know what happens– unless you wake up with a sunburst pattern etched into your forehead.

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