The humble mushroom deserves its health-related accolades—and for a group of devotees in Western North Carolina, it also warrants its own foraging expeditions. Several area companies offer tours that not only help you find and safely distinguish edibles from their poisonous counterparts, but yield beautiful mushrooms such as Honey, Hen of the Woods, and subtly colored Blewits. You can take them home to eat or, in some cases, enjoy them cooked up on-site.
A commercial grower who also teaches cultivation classes, Deep Woods Mushrooms owner Greg Carter offers fall outings for groups of eight or less. Based in Mills River, he leads guests on tours of his own farm and at a variety of private residences across WNC. Carter teaches folks how to photograph mushrooms to identify them—and once you’ve gone on one of his hunts, he offers ongoing support afterwards.
Chris Parker of Asheville Fungi scours the region, including Pisgah and Cherokee national forests, for mushrooms. Forays cover mushroom basics as well as instructions about the plants that grow around mushrooms, making it easier to find them in the first place. “After the hunt, we discuss what we’ve found,” Parker says. “Sometimes we do spore prints and talk about low-tech cultivation.” Forages aren’t limited to those who enjoy eating the pervasive fungi, he notes; some clients use the knowledge for artistic and medicinal purposes.
Alan Muskat of No Taste Like Home has more than two decades of foraging expertise. His tours take place in and around Asheville and include mushrooms and edible plants. They usually include a tasting; he has teamed up with local restaurants, including Nightbell and Rhubarb, which prepare your bounty. Private tours offer more custom experiences, such as spending additional time cooking. Foraging “goes beyond the idea of going local, because food ultimately comes not from farms, but nature,” Muskat says. “It wakes up an appreciation for nature that folks don’t always have until it becomes personal to them.”
Whether you return from foraging with a full basket or not, you’ll experience the thrill of the adventure and a deeper appreciation for nature.
$40 for half day
Deep Woods Mushrooms
$100 per person/$150 for two
No Taste Like Home
$75 per person