You might think you’ve seen all there is to see in Asheville, but we guarantee that there is more than meets the eye. In this series, we’ll reveal notable spots throughout the region that are worth a closer look. Visit bestkeptsecretsnc.com to start watching.
Asheville is known for its eclectic downtown, its vibrant music scene, its plentiful breweries, and, of course, its award-winning restaurants. Chefs all over the city are curating their menus around what is seasonally available in Buncombe County and its surrounding areas, focusing on what grows natively or locally. The result? Fresh, exciting dishes that are ever changing; never boring.
But what if you could bring your own bounty of fresh ingredients, ones that you foraged yourself — herbs, greens, wild mushrooms, and more — to a local Asheville restaurant, to be prepared especially for you?
With the expert guidance of No Taste Like Home Wild Food Adventures, you can do exactly that: gather an array of native-growing edible plants around Asheville, then take your findings to a participating restaurant such as Rhubarb, Nightbell, or The Market Place. There, the chefs will incorporate your fresh ingredients into a unique, complimentary dish to start off your meal.
This special experience is only one of the benefits of going on a Wild Food Adventure with No Taste Like Home. Because before you go out and attempt to blindly forage for vegetation in your back yard, you need to know what you’re looking for, and perhaps more importantly, what to avoid.
Since 1995, the ecotour company’s founder, Alan Muskat, has been taking people “out to eat” by leading tours and classes in and around Asheville with the intention of teaching people how to identify edible plants in the wild and forage some of their own food.
“The question isn’t what’s edible, it’s what’s not edible,” Muskat said in a 2013 interview with Our State. Many know him as the Mushroom Man thanks to his extensive knowledge of fungi. It’s safe to say he knows more than a thing or two about which ones are safe to eat.
“There are old mushroom hunters. There are bold mushroom hunters. But there are no old, bold mushroom hunters,” Muskat says.
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Muskat refers to himself as a “philosophorager.” He’s as eccentric as they come, and his enthusiasm for foraging is contagious. He’s like a kid in a candy store when scouring Asheville’s lush forests for edible treasures, and has instilled that passion into each of his employees over the years.
It’s clear Williams feels it is a privilege that he is able to share his foraging knowledge with others. He emphasizes how empowering it is to be able to identify edible plants for yourself. Once you learn the skill, all of a sudden, the world becomes your garden.
Williams explains that taking a tour with No Taste Like Home is the perfect introduction to this life skill. The guides are helpful and patient, and take the time to make sure you feel comfortable and safe in an environment that may seem overwhelming to the untrained eye. Participants are always in good hands.
“This is a really great experience to go out with an expert in this field that can walk you through going out into the woods and collecting things of your own accord,” Williams says. “Guides will help you interpret these things that you’ve found together, and then empower you to then take that knowledge back home.”
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No Taste Like Home offers a variety of group excursions off the eaten path, from mini tours on the grounds of the Omni Grove Park Inn, regular tours that explore a variety of locations within 20 to 40 minutes of downtown Asheville, and private tours that have the capability of catering to small groups. Each tour ends with a cooking demonstration so that participants can apply what they’ve learned to their everyday lives.
Alan Muskat also offers presentations to larger audiences, with topics ranging from foraging and medicinal herbs to “wild dining” and sustainable agriculture. No Taste Like Home hosts “forage-to-table” dinners at Laughing Frog Estate, and created the Afikomen Project, the first widespread foraging training initiative in North America.
For those who are inspired to dive deeper into the field, the company offers a Wild Food Immersion program, where participants gain in-depth knowledge of edible plants and fungi along with the ability to share their knowledge with others.
Ultimately, No Taste Like Home helps locals and visitors help themselves, and in turn support their community.
A well-known proverb comes to mind: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
“It’s an ecoconscious and sustainable way to be, but it’s also something that feeds your heart, spirit, and soul in this very deep way,” Williams says. “The empowerment that you feel when you can identify something in the wild, harvest it, and bring it back home… It doesn’t get fresher than that. It doesn’t get more local. And it doesn’t get more delicious.”