Slow & Steady…

The day after the Drum Circle, I wanted to go back to The Light Center in Black Mountain. Well, the GPS took me through Charlotte St. There’s a Farmer’s Market in the Public Works parking lot…which I had heard of from the herb farmer at Wildwood Herbal Farm. Not expecting to see it on this particular drive, I pulled in and it was at the end of the market day, so everyone was packing up. I was really just going to see what they had going on and see if I could get info on how to apply as a vendor. The day prior I had written in my notebook: Things to Explore…Mushroom Hunting…No Taste Like Home. (the only entry I made under that list, as I had gotten distracted) Anyhow, I walk around the corner and the only booth still open was the wild food booth with displays of wild mushrooms. And I noticed that they had a foraging class with a few spots left for the very next day. And the class is being run by none other than Alan Muskat, The Mushroom Man of No Taste Like Home! And I get a discount for signing up at the market. I was beyond ecstatic. And very much like the underground dinners…no information was given until the morning of the class itself. I was also able to get information on who to contact to set up a stall at the market.

So with that, I headed off to Black Mountain. The GPS took me through Hwy 9, which is the back route to The Light Center…it goes through Bat Cave. I hadn’t been down this route in any of my previous visits.  A far more picturesque drive than the interstate. For some reason, the GPS kept changing the actual address location that I had entered…so instead of taking me to my requested destination…it seemed convinced I needed to go to a piece of property that was actually for sale. So of course I check it out… And of course SOO out of my price range 🙂 It’s again a 60 acre property but with an A Frame house, with a genuine waterfall in its backyard. The real estate agent said it really should be part of a conservation easement because of how awesome the property is. But I certainly don’t have over a million to shell out. So…LOL…other than the 60 acre connection…I have no clue what that was about. Time will tell I guess. So because the GPS refused to accept the address I kept entering , about 5 times…I gave up and drove blind the rest of the way, as I knew the address was somewhere on Hwy 9. There were two rabbits waiting to greet me this time. And my light therapy session felt like 5 minutes when in reality it was 45.

rabbit real divider

It was quickly becoming a scene out of James Redfield’s Celestine Prophecy series. Morning of the class, Alan sends us the directions and info packet. The class was scheduled for 1pm.  At the last minute, Alan had sent an email saying the location had changed. So I drove to the location and waited. Soon I get a text from Alan, that the location had changed again and a couple were on their way to pick me up. The couple, turns out to be from Russia and have been living in SC for the past few years. They were constantly bickering at each other. And I was seriously wondering if this was going to be a good day or not..their energy was so negative. The fourth person in our group, an older lady, followed us in her own car to the new location.

The new location was in Bent Creek. We learned a lot about mushrooms and a few wild plants. Usually, Alan provides baskets and tools for the foraging, but given our specific location, we had to leave most of it in the cars. I was the only one with a sack that could store the bounty…and after three hours of foraging…and getting lost…we had a knapsack full of goodies.


This is where it gets interesting. The older lady is on sabbatical for over a year now. She does Plant Spirit Healing. She explained that it works on the same principles as Chinese Acupuncture meridians. But instead of using acupuncture needles, she uses the energy from plants and transfers them to the meridian points. That each plant species possesses unique energetic characteristics, wisdom, sentience, purpose in the world and spiritual mission. All are engaged in planetary evolution in their individual ways, and some have particular purposes in working with humanity. “Plant spirits” are the elemental embodiment, collective consciousness and vibrational qualities of a species. Each plant spirit offers specific qualities that dovetail uniquely with our challenges as human beings. She acts as a conduit. She’s on sabbatical because over the years of doing this, she neglected to let go of the energy she had been transferring from the people. So she was run down both physically and energetically. She’s currently working with an acupuncturist. She signed up for the class because Alan had informed her that we would be doing no more than 100 feet. We did 3 hours of walking, hiking, foraging, climbing, ducking and definitely more than 100 ft. She surprised herself and was very glad it turned out the way it had because she wouldn’t have signed on had she known prior.

The Russian guy, it turned out, was an experienced forager back in Russia. He was scouting out stuff for us that even had Alan impressed sufficiently to offer him a job. It was more refreshing to see the shift from marital bickering to the love and connection that was between the husband and wife. He became protective, she was full of admiration. They were complimenting and supporting each other the entire time…once they got surrounded by nature and got down into the elements. He became a little boy again playing in the woods. You could see the youth on his face…the glee, the relaxation, the confidence, the wonder. A lot different from the stoic, responsible, almost like a bouncer character, prior to the hunt. Her character went from anxious and worrying to calm, confident, supportive, strong in her self.

Alan was very interested in my journey and the purpose of the retreat. He was actually excited that I was doing it. He said there needs to be a place where people can have that focus and intention of reconnecting with nature and food. He offered to do classes and workshops at the retreat that are geared towards just that. He gave me a list of contacts as well. His website, No Taste Like Home is very much centered around natural spirituality and its mission is about reconnecting with nature and how it applies to our day to day lives.

Mindful Ecotherapy and Ecospirituality is definitely becoming more and more the direction this journey has been unfolding before me. So much so, that I’ve been working on the curriculum and workshops that would take place at the retreat. So it was great to see it in action during our foraging.


After the hunt, I drove to Zambra’s…a tapas restaurant downtown Asheville. Zambra’s and The Marketplace are two restaurants that support wild foraging. Any forager can bring their bounty to the restaurant and the chef will prepare a feast at little to no cost. So I called two friends to join me. We also ordered off of the set menu…not really knowing how many dishes the chef would send out. I gave the bag of goodies to the hostess and the three of us waited. Twelve courses later…we were full 🙂 I had to convince the chef to prepare the last course or to give me back the last mushroom of interest so I could try it myself back at the house…The Stinkhorn “egg”.

stinkhorn egg

It took the server three messages back and forth before they opted to tackle it 🙂 And I don’t blame them. We both had to look up how to prepare it. It smells like rotting meat and fresh dung compost combined, it is slimy and oozy…before you get to the good part hidden beneath all that protection.

Stinkhorn egg cross section

Everyone in the kitchen was wary…as were the three of us. And they did an amazing job. It was by far the BEST dish that came out that night and that’s saying a lot since all the other dishes were amazing. Not even Alan had tried cooking it before…so he was also pleased as punch once I texted him the results. But another wonderful example of despite our many layers of protection…there’s something great waiting to come out or be discovered in all of us.

Stinkhorn dish

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5 Responses to Slow & Steady…

  1. Diane Samsel says:

    Wonderful Blog, Renata!

  2. KraftedKhaos says:

    I was JUST looking into foraging for mushrooms, less than a week ago! You spying on me? o.O LOL!

    Oh, and if you can make good friends with a local, have them show you where to go pick some ‘ramps’… IF, that is, you’d like to try an extremely strong, pungent cross between an onion and garlic 😉 Being a chef, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t like to at least try it! 🙂

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