– There are lots of reasons the
trees and forests draw us in: hiking, camping,
bird-watching, and mushrooms. Yes, our state is home
to more than 3000 kinds of mushrooms and other edibles. Alan Muskat is a
wild-foods educator, and he offers a tour to
show you how to forage for these foods, then
get them cooked up gourmet-style at a
local restaurant. He took me along for some
foraging in Asheville. [water running] – One thing
sweeter than time outdoors… – I usually make
people go first. – Really? – Yeah. – [Deborah] is tasting
what grows there naturally. – Oh, mint! – [Deborah] That’s what
wild-foods educator Alan Muskat wants
everyone to discover. – So this isn’t
bitter, but it’s tough. So I have a company
called No Taste Like Home, and we’re a wild
foods tour company, and we take people foraging. I like to say we go out to eat. It’s not beech, it’s birch, and we can make a root-beer
flavor out of this. I grew up in the city, so I
wasn’t foraging, you know, but my family would go to
garage sales or something, or like thrift stores, and it was kinda the same thing: Wow! Look at this great
thing for, not free, but virtually nothing. But foraging came after college. I studied philosophy,
of all things, and Chinese philosophy
particularly was about getting natural, and I wanted to
eat more naturally, but no one knew mushrooms. – Lots of honey
mushrooms over here. – Yeah, in fact, this is the
largest creature on earth. So it turned out I had
to make some money, and I started to sell
mushrooms to restaurants for a living and taught
people how to forage, and ended up with
this tour company. – We’re in the
middle of the forest, in the middle of the trail. Everybody walks by it every day, but there’s apples,
falling from the tree. Feral apples, delicious ones. [crunching] Yum. It’s hard. It’s zingy. Full of energy, and very good
at quenching your thirst. – We have six guides right now, and we go to any
one of 50 diiferent natural areas around Asheville. It’s always a mix of
woods and meadows, and we find different
things in each, so we’ll point out anywhere
from 10 to 20 wild foods, we’ll gather them. It takes about three
hours at the end. We cook a little
bit for sampling, and the rest
participants can take to one of seven
restaurants in town that will prepare it for them
in an appetizer for free. So this humongous
fungus is a name that doesn’t really do
justice to its beauty: the black-staining polypore. – It’s cold and wet. – It’s not poisonous, and
it’s not exactly edible because it is tough. This is a piece of that big one. You are holding what is
called, chicken of the woods. What’s unexpected is the flavor, is how remarkably similar. In fact, I’ve fooled
people before, you know, they wouldn’t know, because
it tastes like chicken. We’ll make it for dinner. I want to shift gears
and show you some fruit. Check that out. You’ve heard of it. It’s called “paw-paws.” – It’s really good. – [Deborah] Then it was
on to the final phase of our tour, at Rhubarb,
a hip, contemporary farm-to-table restaurant
in downtown Asheville, with award-winning chef
and owner, John Fleer. – I want very much to
give people who dine here an experience of a
place, and that is, not only the restaurant,
but where we live and what comes from this area. What could be more of
an experience of a place than the foraged goods
that grow here naturally and have grown
here for centuries? We have honey mushrooms,
a great wild mushroom, very mild flavor, delicate. We’re gonna take the
bigger ones like this and chop them up and make
a filling for a tart, for a little hand pie. The smaller ones like these,
we’re just gonna sautee with a little shallot
and thyme, throw them in that wood-fired oven,
and let them sing that way. Then we’ve got autumn
olives, sweet and tart. They’re a little bit tannic. We’re, I think,
gonna cook them down and do a little
sauce for a dessert. What I don’t know, these are
pokeberry seeds, pokeberries. – [Deborah] And, he
strained those bad boys through a sieve for a
glaze over grilled peaches, which he tossed into a
salad of field greens, country ham, and
pickled shallots. And he turned that
“chicken of the woods” into a respectable,
savory appetizer. So, at Rhubarb that
night, we toasted the chef for what Alan called
“Find Dining.” [laughing] [upbeat music] Alan Muskat offers
wild-food tours and a wild foods public
education program for kids. To schedule a tour,
visit him online at notastelikehome.org/alan. Rhubarb Restaurant is located at 7 SW Pack Square
in Asheville, and they’re open
for lunch and dinner every day of the
week except Tuesday. For reservations and
more information, call Rhubarb at 828-785-1503 or go online to rhubarbasheville.com.