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On a stroll through Oakland Cemetery, Robby Astrove rubs a bush and notes that it’s sage. Around the corner, he notices lemon thyme growing among the plots; we stop for a taste with the city as a backdrop. There’s food everywhere, he says.
In our age of industrial farming, chefs around the country have begun to look at foraging as a way to add piercing flavors and visual excitement to their dishes: While indigenous, these wild edibles can seem exotic in their unfamiliarity. It’s a natural extension of the locavore movement, but in Atlanta, it’s also a way for Southern chefs to reconnect to their culinary roots without falling back on regional cooking cliches. Plants gathered deep in the woods or on the margins of cultivated lands now routinely show up on some of the fanciest tables in town.
The story of Adam, Eve, and the irresistible piece of fruit makes perfect sense to me. I once tried to get a young man to pluck fresh hazelnuts from a tree arching over the tiger enclosure at the zoo in Rome (he wouldn’t, but he married me nevertheless a few months later). I have also watched one of the most educated women I know beg her tall, husky husband to collect a persimmon on a high branch near their house in Lake Claire (he reluctantly submitted to her entreaties).