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Knoxville's World of Mushrooms

Mushroom Foraging: Safety First

Photo by David Luttrell

Mushroom Foraging: Safety First

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  • MUSHROOM MAN: Whitey Hitchcock is a devoted member of the Asheville Mushroom Club (, which forages, camps, and cooks together. They welcome anyone from newcomers to professional mycologists and also publish a cookbook and educate the public about dangerous mushrooms.
  • ON THE PROWL: On a September morning in the woods along an Oak Ridge byway, honey and Chicken in the Woods mushrooms were the most likely finds. Now that’s its October, the more common will include Lion’s Mane and puffballs. Forager Whitey Hitchcock shares a recipe for turning the latter into “Puffballs Parmesan” on his blog:
  • Mushroom Foraging: Safety First
  • FROM WOODS TO TABLE: Whitey Hitchcock (left) took Avanti Savoia Chef Joseph Lowery (center) on his first mushroom foray a few months back. For this class (with chef Karen Crumley, right), the two sauteed Hitchcock’s “special finds” and served them with eggs on toast points.
  • FINDERS, KEEPERS, DINERS: Clockwise from bottom left: Simmering Chicken of the Woods mushrooms become Curry on Rice; (left to right) Avanti Savoia’s Ben Slocum, and chefs Joseph Lowery and Karen Crumley assist at Whitey Hitchcock’s class and dinner, “The Wild Mushroom Forager”; a casserole ready to slide into the oven will emerge as Leek, Potato, and Honey Mushroom Gratin.
  • Foraged, home-grown, or tended by a mega-farm, East Tennessee mushrooms are popping up everywhere
  • ‘SHROOM SCIENCE: Owner Bob Hess’ Everything Mushrooms in South Knoxville is one of just a few businesses in the country that specializes in specialty mushroom cultivation supplies, doing 98 percent of it sales online.
  • MEGA MUSHROOMS: Monterey Mushrooms’ huge facility in Loudon (about 30 miles west of Knoxville) employs 560 workers, many of them Mexican immigrants. The plant produces 30 million pounds of mushrooms a year.

A new focus on local foods paired with our Appalachian heritage for foraging—and thrift!—has created a wild mushroom love affair that’s gracing the finest restaurants and the humblest home kitchens. With mushroom fiends like intrepid forager Whitey Hitchcock and grow-your-own advocate Bob Hess of Everything Mushrooms acting as evangelists (plus a major producer like Monterey in our own back yard), mushrooms are, well, mushrooming into a genuine Knoxville food trend.

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