Tradd Cotter, Mushroom Mountain (Easley, SC)
Mushrooms are a staple in my kitchen. I grew up eating them sauteed in garlic and butter, and that’s still my favorite way to enjoy them, but it was only a few years ago that I began seeing different varieties of ‘shrooms hit Southern restaurant tables on the regular. People such as Tradd Cotter are partly responsible for that, introducing us to the fascinating and somewhat fantastical forms of edible mushrooms out there, a foraging knowledge we used to know but have collectively forgotten. Tradd is helping us remember from his 50,000 square foot lab and mushroom facility in Easley, SC, aptly named Mushroom Mountain. Not only is he training a generation of chefs to recognize safe mushrooms for the table, he’ll tell you he’s only scratching the surface -- pardon the pun -- as to the magical properties of fungi. Tradd is one of the leading researchers in the country, and after I heard him speak last year before GrowFood Carolina’s Mushroom Gathering, I knew I needed to visit the mountain. I came away with more than just mushrooms, I came away with hope for the amazing ways our planet adapts and works, even when we’re not paying attention.