— What is Appalachia? —

Mountain Food Legacies & Harvest Adventures

From hand-tied fishing lures to moonshine lore, Appalachia embodies a colorful culture all its own.

The Blue Ridge Mountains, the spine of southernmost Appalachia, are gently rolling as ranges go. Some of the oldest mountains in the world, the Blue Ridge and its famous scenic parkway are a source of much of the region's beauty, character—and even cuisine.

Though the autumn trees are best known for their leaf displays, they also burst forth with fruit like apples and pears. The fields, not to be outdone by the hills, brim with pumpkins and produce. Ramps, perennial wild onions with a powerfully pungent scent, are another Appalachian food tradition increasingly coveted by top-tier chefs.

Add to that summer berries, plentiful native trout and abundance from farm and field, and Appalachia has a recipe for culinary richness to rival that of its views.


  • Down on the Farm

    Southern Appalachia has a rich agricultural history with the climate and soil to support it.
  • Local Harvest

    During late summer and fall, the lush, Blue Ridge landscape ripens and the tailgate markets around Asheville begin bustling with harvest activity.
  • Harvest Wild

    In years with abundant rainfall, the mountains sprout a variety of wild mushrooms. More than 3,000 species can be found in WNC alone, some of which are edible.
  • Agrarian Experiences

    The harvest season is when summer's last hurrah and autumn's riot of color serve as a backdrop for apple festivals, hayrides—and plenty of eating.

Mountain Travel Deals


Appalachian Harvest Recipes

Whip up your own Appalachian fall foods with recipes for apple stack cake, cast iron-cooked trout with smoked grits or blueberry buttermilk tart.

Recipe created by Early Girl Eatery.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease, paper and flour 3–9" round pans.

Apple Stack Cake | ExploreAsheville.com

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 4–5 cups (16-20 oz) Flour

  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda

  • ½ teaspoon Salt

  • 2/3 cup Shortening (5¼oz Butter)

  • 1 cup Sugar (8 oz)

  • 1 cup Molasses (11 oz)

  • 2 Eggs (beaten)

  • 1 cup Buttermilk

Filling:

  • 4 cup Dried Apples

  • 1 cup Brown Sugar

  • ½ teaspoon Cloves

  • Cover apples with water and cook until soft. Mash with potato masher, then add apples and cloves

Method

  1. Cream together shortening, sugar and molasses

  2. Sift together flour, salt and baking soda

  3. Mix beaten eggs and buttermilk together

  4. Add dry and wet ingredients, alternating in small amount, to creamed mixture

  5. You may need to add more flour (up to 1 cup) at this point so mixture will not flow.

  6. Divide mixture into 9" round pans, leveling off dough in each pan

  7. Bake at 350° for about 20 min (or until they test done)

  8. Cakes will rise very little.

  9. Cool in pans about 10 min then turn onto wire racks until cooled completely

  10. Cut each layer horizontally so you now have 6 layers

  11. Spread approx. ½ cup filling between each layer

  12. This cake is best when allowed to sit 24–48 hours at room temp. after assembly. Dust with confectioner's sugar when ready to serve.

Recipe created by Bouchon.

Blueberry Buttermilk Tart Recipe | ExploreAsheville.com

Ingredients

Shell:

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

  • 1 large egg yolk, beaten with 2 tablespoons ice water

  • raw rice for weighting the shell

Filling:

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 3 large egg yolks

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups picked over blueberries

  • confectioners' sugar for sprinkling the tart

  • blueberry ice cream as an accompaniment if desired

Method

Shell:

In a bowl stir together the flour, the sugar, and the salt, add the butter, and blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Add the yolk mixture, toss the mixture until the liquid is incorporated, and form the dough into a ball. Dust the dough with flour and chill it, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 1 hour. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick on a floured surface, fit it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable fluted rim, and chill the shell for at least 30 minutes or, covered, overnight. Line the shell with foil, fill the foil with the rice, and bake the shell in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and rice carefully, bake the shell for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until it is pale golden, and let it cool in the pan on a rack.

Filling:

In a blender or food processor blend together the buttermilk, the yolks, the granulated sugar, the zest, the lemon juice, the butter, the vanilla, the salt, and the flour until the mixture is smooth, spread the blueberries evenly over the bottom of the shell, and pour the buttermilk mixture over them. Bake the tart in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the filling is just set.

Let the tart cool completely in the pan on the rack, sprinkle it with the confectioners' sugar, sifted, and serve it at room temperature or chilled with the ice cream.

Recipe created by The Market Place.

Cast Iron Trout with Smoked Grits and Potlicker Jus Recipe | ExploreAsheville.com

Ingredients

Grits:

  • 2 tbsp. Blended Olive Oil

  • 1/4 cup Red Onion, small dice

  • 1 tbsp. Garlic, minced

  • 2 cups Yellow Corn Grits, coarse ground

  • 8 cups Water

  • 1.5 cups Heavy Cream

  • 1/2 cup Chevre

  • s tbsp. Frank's Red Hot Sauce

  • salt and pepper, to taste

Farm Egg:

  • 6 each, Farm Egg

  • salt and pepper, to taste

Potlicker Jus:

  • 1.5 quarts Potlicker Jus

  • 1 tbsp. Butter

  • salt and pepper, to taste

Trout:

  • 1.5 tbsp. Blended Oil

  • 3 each PBO Trout*

  • salt and pepper, to taste

Garnish:

  • 18 each Pickled Ramp, cut lengthwise on the bias

  • 2 tbsp. Parsley, finely chopped

  • Aleppo Pepper, as needed

Method

  1. For the grits: In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium high heat and add the onion. Cook until translucent and stir in the garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds and pour in the water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.

  2. As the water comes to a boil, whisk in the grits, constantly stirring until they come together and begin to bubble—about 3–4 minutes.

  3. As the grits begin to bubble, remove the pot from the heat and immediately cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and keep in a warm place. Allow to "steam" for 45–50 minutes.

  4. After the grits have steamed, place the pot back on stove over medium heat. Stir in the heavy cream, chevre, Franks's Red Hot, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Taste and re-season as necessary. Serve immediately.

  5. For the farm eggs: Bring an immersion circulator in a water bath to 65°C. Place the eggs in a pasta basket and place in the water bath. Allow to cook for 45–50 minutes. (or you can poach the eggs in acidulated water for 1.5 minutes at a light simmer).

  6. For the potlicker jus: Bring the potlicker jus to a simmer and mount in the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  7. For the trout: Cut the trout fillets into 2 portions each, discarding the tail end. Season the skin side of the trout with salt and pepper.

  8. In a large cast iron pan, heat the oil over medium high heat and as the oil begins to shimmer, place the trout into the pan (skin side down), and allow to cook until the trout skin is crispy. Gently turn the trout over and reduce the heat to medium. Allow to cook for another 3–4 minutes, or until the trout is cooked through.

  9. To serve: Place a small cast iron serving skillet over a folded napkin on a small square plate. Place a 3" ring mold into the center of the round skillet.

  10. Place a teaspoon of the grits in the center of the ring mold.

  11. Crack a poached egg into a perforated bar straining spoon and place the egg directly on the grits. Gently mound more of the grits over the poached egg. Then place a piece of trout (skin side up) on the grits. Pour approximately 2 oz. of potlicker jus around the outside of the ring mold and garnish the trout with the sliced, pickled ramps. Garnish the plate with the chopped parsley and Aleppo pepper.

Yields 6 Portions


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Down on the farm

Kids with a kid down on the farm

Family farms abound in and around Asheville—and Fairview's bucolic Hickory Nut Gap is as family as they come. Both Hickory Nut Gap and the adjacent Flying Cloud Farms sit on land settled in 1916 by Jim and Elizabeth McClure. Five generations of their descendants have since farmed the property.

Hickory Nut Gap offers pumpkin picking during the harvest season, plus a hay bale maze and an opportunity to meet piglets, ponies, calves and goats. A farm store carries local ice cream and cider, farm eggs and both fresh and cured meat.

See more of what Asheville has to offer on the farm front by checking out the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project's Farm Tour, a self-guided driving tour of community food producers and small family farms, which takes place in late September. Any time of the year, download ASAP's "Appalachian Grown" app to locate local farms.

Say cheese

Local Cheese-makers at Looking Glass Creamery

In Asheville and the surrounding areas, artisan cheese is abundant and increasingly appreciated. To help spread the word, local cheese-makers created the WNC Cheese Trail. A newly released map helps cheese cravers find hot spots like Looking Glass Creamery, which has a tiny tasting room full of big-flavored cheeses (and a patio with a lovely view). Or visit English Farmstead Cheese in Marion, where you can buy cheese made from the family cows from a quaint storefront. Many of the creameries also sell their wares at local tailgate markets across the region.

Abundant apples

Bobbing for Apples

From the NC Apple Festival to u-pick farms, harvest time means apples abound in WNC. Henderson County is North Carolina's apple mecca with 28 farms, many of which allow visits. Besides apples, expect to find baked goods, cider, hayrides and other harvest-time festive fun.

A bit farther afield in Spruce Pine, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 328, The Orchard at Altapass is part Appalachian cultural center, part apple bonanza. There you'll find 280 acres rich with heirloom apples (ripe for the picking in late summer), mountain music, story-telling hayrides and late-fall apple butter (jars of which make perfect souvenirs for those left behind in the low country).


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Local harvest

Nearly 100 tailgate markets can be found in the Southern Appalachians—and a whopping 20 of them are located in the greater Asheville area. Shop at one of these many markets and odds are you'll be shopping alongside chefs from the best Asheville restaurants. Eateries like Tupelo Honey Cafe, Lexington Avenue Brewery and The Market Place are only a few of the many places you can nosh on farm fresh food.

An Asheville Farmers Market

Though some close in November, plenty of holiday and indoor markets remain open, offering timeless (and season-less) Appalachian products like meats, cheese and crafts. Throughout autumn, tailgates and roadside stands are stocked with edible and decorative gourds, fall harvest arrangements and wreaths, various vegetables and more than enough jarred and packaged goods for stocking stuffers and Appalachian gifts.

Visit the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project's website to find tailgate markets, farm stands and holiday markets—all the better to enjoy the bounty of the harvest.

Tour de Asheville

Asheville is known as the Paris of the South for its galleries, cafes and world-class food scene. Get an insider's view to the city's many farm-to-table restaurants through some of the local walking tours. There's Eating Asheville, created by two local restaurant veterans, offering tours from the basic to the posh (with five whole drink pairings). The newly minted Dishcrawl tours four to eight restaurants, depending on your appetite, all within walking distance of each other. In a sipping and sitting mood? Try Brews Cruise, which wheels you around the area's bevy of breweries. You did know Asheville is Beer City USA, didn't you?

Oh honey, honey

Asheville is also Bee City USA. The area loves its pollinators, which make possible up to two-thirds of what we eat. Wild Mountain Bees is a bee-centric store offering local honey, beekeeping needs and honey-based beauty products. It also has demonstrations geared toward both the advanced and aspiring beekeeper. For a different honey experience, visit the WNC Farmers Market, which is brimming with honey and other locally made products (and boasts gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains).


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Harvest wild

Alan Muskat Foraging for Mushrooms

Local foragers like Alan Muskat, featured on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, know how to find forest delicacies like morel and chanterelle mushrooms. April through October, Muskat runs the Wild Foods Market, selling fungus and other edibles culled from the woods. He's also keen to teach amateurs the ways of the wild. Muskat regularly runs foraging expeditions, tailor-made to explore everything from backwoods hollers to the grand fields of the Biltmore Estate, according to your whims.

If mushrooms aren't quite your speed, Appalachian woods burst with berries—wine berries, blueberries, black raspberries and more—from June through first frost. Visit the Long Branch Educational Center to find these fruits and others available for the picking.

Go fish

Fly Fishing in Asheville, NC

In the mountains of Asheville, fall harvest hiking is tough to beat, and the Blue Ridge Parkway offers numerous trails on which to leaf peep. But harvest season also means an abundance of trout in the Nantahala River, which is stocked with rainbow, brook and brown trout in the early fall. Trout require cold, clean water, so the mountains streams around Asheville provide the perfect environment. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has plenty of information about local trout, as well as how to get licensed.

No time for fishing? Visit Sunburst Trout Farms in Canton, where three generations of trout farmers have raised some of the best freshwater trout in the Southeast in water flowing from the Shining Rock Wilderness of Pisgah National Forest. The farm, which has a retail store offering everything from cold-smoked, gravlax-style trout to trout jerky, is open for visitors several days a week.


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Agrarian Experiences

Wood Worker

Looking for an authentic Appalachian agrarian antiques? The Apple County Antique Engine and Tractor Association shows off old-timey tractors, corn milling, blacksmithing and other hallmarks of the old-school farm experience during Fall Harvest Days at WNC Agricultural Center.

The Biltmore Estate's Vanderbilt family has a rich farming legacy, too. Those traditions are still alive today, and the Farm in Antler Hill Village on the Estate boasts a historic barn, plus woodworkers, craft demonstrations and a farmyard full of friendly animals.

Corn Maze

A maze of maize

Where there's corn, you're bound to find corn mazes. The Eliada Annual Corn Maze twists through 12 acres of corn fields with a hay-bale trail geared toward younger kids. Corn cannons, a corn-kernel sandbox and pumpkin patches round out the family-friendly farm fun. Taylor Ranch also hosts corn mazes in autumn on its working horse and cattle ranch.

Speaking of pumpkins, the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City hosts Peanuts Express, where kids can listen to a narration of a classic Peanuts tale while they ride the rails to pick a pumpkin and meet Snoopy and the gang.