No Taste Like Home

wild grapes

We are a twenty-one year-old ecotour company and educational organization. Our focus is foraging. Our public outings (all by donation) fund our youth program. Our mission is to help people to feel at home.

We are based in Asheville, North Carolina, an acclaimed destination in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With over 300 wild edibles, our area is the richest temperate ecosystem on Earth.

We are one of the largest foraging tour companies in the world. We are the only tour company in North America specializing in forage-to-table adventures, and we work with some of the world’s only “u-pick” forage-to-table restaurants.

chlorociboria aeruginascensOur tours have been ranked one of ten best gift experiences by Southern Living and one of Fodor’s best food experiences in the world. We have been featured on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and in USA TodayTravel+LeisureConde Nast TravelerThe Washington Post, The New Yorker, and dozens of other major media outlets.

We have taught “self-catering” to Dr. Andrew Weil (twice on the cover of Time),  Christie Hefner (former CEO of Playboy), the owner of The Biltmore Estate, VPs of Shell, Amoco, Aon, Motorola, Cracker Barrel, and The American Heart Association, the PR team for Michelin North America, the General Counsel for the Army, the head of The American Bar Association, a number of James Beard chefs, and the founder of Mother Earth News. We’ve led thousands off the eaten path and haven’t lost a customer yet.

There are many farm-to-table restaurants featuring locally-cultivated food. Many restaurants also incorporate wild food. However, except for a number of seafood establishments, very few restaurants are u-pick. Guests don’t gather any of the ingredients themselves. Here’s one where they do, but if it’s not wild, it’s not foraging.

As far as we know, we offer the only opportunity in North America to gather and enjoy, year-round, your very own “catch of the day.” Similar programs that we’re aware of include a restaurant in British Columbia that offers a foraging and cooking class, a hotel in Colorado that offers a mushroom-hunting trip in August, a resort in upstate New York that offers foraging, one in northwestern Pennsylvania that offers a forage-to-spa experience, and a forager in Chicago that offers a u-pick forage-to-table experience. These are all by request, not regular offerings. We’d love to help others get started!

There are a handful of “forage & feast” programs elsewhere in the world, including Catalonia, Spain. A Michelin-starred restaurant in the Pyrenees offers mushroom ‘hunt, cook, and eat’ tours by arrangement (see also here). That’s not surprising, seeing as one of the top TV shows in Catalonia is “Mushroom Hunters.”

Here’s a fun review of another such offering in Bavaria. There’s another in Wales, and an occasional such event, at least as of 2013, in Scotland. There’s a seafood one in Australia. There’s ones in England, South Africa, and Thailand (see here). And here’s a few others. More recent lists include here and here, but most of these offerings involve little if any actual foraging.

Hopefully, as we rediscover true sustainability, we’ll see more foraging programs exemplifying permaculture around the world. After all, it’s only natural!