Why These Die-Hard Nature Lovers Want You To Eat The Plants They Find On The Forest Floor

Foragers are quitting their day jobs to turn an extreme love of the wilderness into a profit

Cool-looking mushroom or money-making opportunity? Image of a Morel mushroom via Flickr user Mike Kempenich (cc)

Like a many-petalled goblet, chanterelle mushrooms are prized by chefs the world over, fetching as much as $25 per pound, and yet they grow free for the taking in forests everywhere. The delicate and aromatic mushrooms are a mainstay of Pittsburgh’s Wild Purveyors, a rust-belt firm that offers foraged wild edibles and organic produce across Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. “We go into the woods and there’s a huge bloom of mushrooms that unfolds across the whole forest floor,” says the firm’s cofounder, Cavan Patterson. “I can’t even see to the end of it.” They collect a few thousand pounds a year in spots they now know by heart.

[quote position="right" is_quote="true"]I see myself as an ambassador for apples.[/quote]

Since 2009, Cavan (a former mortgage broker) and his brother, Tom (who has degrees in horticulture and mycology), have been foraging and selling wild edibles of every variety—including fifty different species of mushrooms, ramps, and Japanese knotweed. “We have access to over 15,000 private acres where we’ve been given permission to forage,” Cavan explains. “If it’s edible and prolific, we’ll collect it and sell it.” They supplement the seasonal edibles with artisanal and organic produce from local farmers. “The business brings customers an appreciation for the bounty that is literally growing right in their backyard.”

He’s not alone in melding foraging and profit. The locavore, farm-to-table movement is now embracing forage-to-table as well. Foraging has moved increasingly from home kitchens to trendy restaurants—at world famous Noma in Copenhagen, much of the menu stars foraged edibles like moss, scallops, leeks and even crickets; at Gentleman Forager in Minneapolis, owner Mike Kempenich not only offers sustainably harvested seafood and woodland edibles—but classes in mushroom identification and commercial foraging as well.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]We’re putting these incredibly nuanced, neglected plants that people don’t even care about into their lives and they’re enjoying them immensely.[/quote]

In Menton, Alabama, the tip of southern Appalachia, Pete Halupka and his wife Lindsay Whiteaker of Harvest Roots Ferment forage heirloom southern fruits and plants and offer a series of ever-changing kombuchas on tap and in bottle at farmer’s markets. Says Halupka: “We’re putting these incredibly nuanced, neglected plants that people don’t even care about into their lives and they’re enjoying them immensely.” Harvest Roots rotates the flavor and content of their local kombuchas twice a month, using plants like wild elderberry, persimmon, plums, muscadine grapes, and a berry called Autumn Olive, which contains high levels of the antioxidant lycopene.

“I joke that I’m the worst farmer in the world,” says Halupka, “because I don’t like to weed out nutritionally dense plants like purslane and chickweed so I can grow and eat kale. I want to eat the wild edibles.” Halupka and his wife plan to soon emulate a craft brewery or cidery. “We’re going to make our kombucha completely local, with foraged local tea, local sorghum and honey, and local plants. Why sit down to a $200 dinner at a high-end restaurant and drink a Coca-Cola, when you can drink a craft, local kombucha?”

Relying on the wild to earn one’s living can, however, be a bit of a financial rollercoaster. Andy Brennan, owner with his partner Polly Giragosian of Aaron Burr Cidery in Wortsboro, New York, forages wild apples for his nationally available homestead ciders. Many wild apples are aromatic and sour and transform into delicious ciders, and many hail from old, abandoned orchards that have survived centuries of neglect. Now they are being rediscovered and repurposed. Brennan’s ciders are unpasteurized and unfiltered, and each year’s “vintage” is fermented with wild yeasts naturally growing on the apples, along with a starter culture of cider from the previous year. He sometimes adds other foraged edibles—such as elderberry or home-tapped maple syrup. The ciders are carried in New York, California, Maryland, Rhode Island, and are available online at Mouth.

[quote position="right" is_quote="true"]When I’m out in the wild, I’m having a conversation with all the plants.[/quote]

As popular as the ciders are, Andy still supplements his business with cider made from commercially grown and purchased apples. “You can't rely on nature,” he says. “Some years are great for wild apples, and others are not. Last year was a huge apple year and we made over 2,000 gallons of homestead cider. Still, we make a more reliable living fermenting cider with apples from a commercial orchard, and we both still have jobs at night as well.” Why does he persist in gathering unruly wild apples? “I see myself as an ambassador for apples. I want people to drink the cider and then come to the trees themselves, to see the beauty in wild apples.”

Rachael Young, a full-time forager who provides wild edibles to local chefs, would agree with that sentiment. Taught to forage as a child by a Native American friend of her father’s, she offers local chefs everything from escargot to peaches, sunflower buds, green grapes, wild walnuts, yarrow, and many other plants. She calls this “regenerative harvesting,” which means she harvests at a time that encourages regrowth. To do that right, Young must pay close attention to the health and needs of her future harvest.

“When I’m out in the wild,” she says, “I’m having a conversation with all the plants.” Sounds like a delicate process that’s good for the plants—and bodes well for the quality of the food that ends up on the plate.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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