In the botanical wonderland of the Southern Appalachians, plant poaching is a very real threat. It’s also a reflection of how important plants are to the people who live here — providing food, medicine, and income, not to mention cultural connection and belonging, for everyone ranging from the Cherokee to white settlers to newly arrived immigrants. But overharvest threatens to wipe out some species, like ginseng and ramps, even on the protected landscapes of the national parks. How can the parks keep their plant populations safe? And is there any role for cultural harvest inside their boundaries?

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As outdoor educators, we have long known the importance of engaging the senses of our students and the role that plays in building a sense of place. However, there is one sense that is often left out of the equation: taste. Every landscape has its own cast of characters that work together to form a unique identity. This includes a unique palate of flavors. Becoming aware of the edible landscape around us adds a whole new layer to how we can interact with and perceive our environment…

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For those willing to get a little frosty, there is no need to pack up your foraging baskets during the cold winter months. Bundle up and join teacher naturalist Ken Benton as we learn to identify and sustainably harvest a variety of wild foods from the surrounding landscape.  We’ll bake with spruce, fir, and pine needles and sip on a warm mug…

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