Medicine at your Doorstep

Online harvest conference features traditional Cherokee foods

L-R: Mary Crowe, Tyson Sampson, and Amy Walker will talk about wildcrafting and other traditional Native American folkways.

When Mary Crowe talks about superfoods, there’s no mention of acai or activated charcoal. Rather, her take on staying well is a no-nonsense march through accessible, affordable victuals. 

Consider this, for instance: Greens powder, a trendy blend of dehydrated grasses and veggies, goes for more than $40 on Amazon. Meanwhile, dandelions, a wild green chockfull of vitamins A, C, and K, is free for the picking. “And yet we buy weed killer to destroy it,” says Crowe. 

A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Crowe was raised to hunt and gather. As a child, she harvested wild game with her father and squash, maize, and beans with her mother. Even in adulthood, she eschews convenience foods. Woods over WalMart, if you will. 

In late January, Crowe forages for pokeweed, sochan, and ramps. “I like them when they are still young and tender — right when they start greening,” she says of the latter, which is typically harvested in late March. Spring and summer of course give way to berries — huckleberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. And in the fall, she collects chestnuts, walnuts, and hickory nuts. 

Though Crowe never turns down a home-cooked meal of bear meat and wild edibles, she thinks of food as more than a means of filling her stomach. “It’s medicine,” she says. “What keeps us healthy is in these mountains.”

For the Organic Growers School’s 7th annual Harvest Conference, Crowe and co-presenters Amy Walker and Tyson Sampson will explore the relationship between mind, body, spirit, and traditional Cherokee foods in two workshops — Gathering & Wildcrafting and Cultivating Traditional Foods. 

Since the conference will be livestreamed, participants can expect a mix of instructional slides, Q&As, and prerecorded videos. Lessons run the gamut from preparing a kitchen garden to shelling chestnuts to canning green beans. 

“My momma swore all you needed to can were some jars, canning salt, and a pressure cooker,” says Crowe. “It’s all very basic, nothing fancy.”

Gathering & Wildcrafting will be hosted via Zoom Webinar on Friday, Sept. 11, 9:30am-4:30pm. Cultivating Traditional Foods will be hosted on Saturday, Sept. 12, 9:30am-4:30pm. Each day-long workshop is independent. $70/workshop, $125/both or any two workshops. For more information, visit 

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