Frequently Asked Questions
- Where do we meet?
- Why aren’t we told where we are going when we register?
- When is the best time of year to participate?
- How strenuous are the tours?
- Do we get to eat what we find?
- Do you guarantee that we’ll find mushrooms?
- What should I NOT expect on a public tour?
- Are children welcome?
- Do you sell gift certificates or season passes?
1. Where do we meet?
For all programs, pre-registration is required.
Tours meet on site, not at our office.
90-minute wild food strolls meet at The Omni Grove Park Inn.
Private tours meet on site, location by arrangement.
2. Why aren’t we told where we are going when we register?
We can’t always announce where we’re going sooner than the night before because often, we don’t know. Like a snorkeling trip, we go where the conditions are best. If it threatens to rain, we may go someplace else.
There is a reason hunter-gatherer societies are nomadic. When you shop outside the box, it’s Mother Nature that sets the itinerary.
3. When is the best time of year to participate?
Foraging can be fun every month of the year. While our main season runs from March-October, we go out November-March as well. And while most mushrooms come out July to mid-October, April’s the time for morels. Usually the greatest variety of plants is in April and the greatest variety of mushrooms is in September, but there’s a mix of everything year-round.
All told, our area has over 300 wild edibles. Only 10% or so, however, will be in season at any given time. And just because something is in season doesn’t mean we see it on every tour. This is especially true for mushrooms.
For all these reasons, you can’t see — or gather — everything in just one outing, and this is why we offer season passes.
4. How strenuous are the tours?
Most people are surprised at how easy our tours are. Our wild food stroll is an easy, less than a quarter-mile walk on the grounds surrounding The Omni Grove Park Inn.
On our foraging tours, we rarely cover more than half a mile over fairly flat terrain. There are times when the group is given the opportunity to spread out and see what they can find, but participants are invited to travel only as far as they are comfortable.
Note that we do frequently go off-trail as a group, where it can be brushy, the ground is often uneven, and there are fallen branches to step over and rocks to watch out for. If you have any concerns, please check with us.
Also, there are several points on the tour at which we may spend up to half an hour in one spot. If anyone in your party would have trouble standing for that long and would not be comfortable sitting on the ground, we have light folding chairs we can bring along. Just let us know and we would be happy to accommodate you.
If you schedule a private tour, we will choose where we go and what we do to match the needs and preferences of your group. If you want a rugged hike to a remote, secluded swimming hole, we can do that. If you want a short drive and an easy walk to a waterfall, we can do that too.
Foraging is rarely difficult. It is often, quite literally, a walk in the park.
5. Do we get to eat what we find?
Yes, see here.
6. Do you guarantee that we’ll find mushrooms?
Second, even in season, foraging tours are like whale-watching tours: we can’t guarantee that mushrooms will make an appearance. Mushrooms, like the rain they rely on, are unpredictable, especially in the Appalachians. They are literally an underground dinner: they don’t announce their location in advance. Remember, these jokers are wild.
For this reason, we usually bring at least one example of the top mushrooms currently in season to show if not to cook up. Overall, remember, foragers can’t be choosers. Fortunately, there are over 150 common edibles to “chew” from. Prepare to be surprised! And if you’re unhappy with the tour, we will gladly give you a refund.
“Mushrooms!” exclaimed Kamba the Tortoise, joyfully. “Do I see mushrooms? REAL mushrooms?”
Yes, they were real mushrooms, little, white mushrooms that had pushed all night at the dark brown earth above them, and had struggled through its hard crust just in time to see the sunrise, just in time to make a fine breakfast for a hungry Tortoise.
Malawi folk tale in G. Elliot, The Long Grass Whispers
7. What should I NOT expect on a public tour?
Tours include a tasting, not a meal, but if you dine at one of our six local partner restaurants, you can enjoy a free appetizer created from your very own “catch of the day.”
If you want to hike, to be just in woods, to focus only on mushrooms, to focus on harvesting, to learn as much as possible, or to make a meal together, consider a private tour.
It’s important to start children foraging early. Toddlers put everything in their mouths anyway!
We allow children of all ages to attend — and children under 5 are free — with the following three requirements:
• on public tours, caregivers must take children out of earshot if they are crying or otherwise disruptive to the group. Please do not wait for us to ask you to do so.
• you must make it very clear to your child that they must not taste anything unless specifically instructed to do so.
• you are responsible for keeping a careful eye on your child throughout the tour.
Although 99% of plants and mushrooms are harmless, there are several in our area that, if swallowed, are potentially deadly, even in small amounts. Please watch — and educate — your children. For more to be aware of when foraging with us, see here.
9. Do you sell gift certificates or season passes?
Yes, see here.