It can be easy to dismiss the artisanal-this and foraged-that food vibe in Asheville as "Brooklyn heads to the mountains." But plenty in this town of 83,000 residents — and three million annual visitors — conspires to diffuse cynicism: the saturating lushness of the surrounding mountains, the earnest welcome from the locals, and the improbable number of stellar restaurants.
Bill Addison, Eater
Why is Asheville such an acclaimed destination? It's only natural.
They say you can hardly run into anyone in Asheville who isn't a yoga instructor, herbalist, massage therapist, or all of the above. Known across the country as a center for natural living, Asheville has more small farms and health food options than many major cities. It's also nearly surrounded by national forest, along with The Blue Ridge Parkway on one side and Smoky Mountains National Park on the other.
People new to Asheville are amazed at how easily one can get lost here. The reason for this is the same for why our area has the greatest biodiversity outside of the tropics on Earth. There are hundreds of wild edibles around Asheville; at least 150 are common. We have thousands of mushrooms and 90% of the common plant edibles you'll find anywhere else in the country.
Why all the diversity? In Western North Carolina, there are an incredible number of microclimates created by thousands of nooks and crannies. The Scotch-Irish who settled here chose the area for the same reason, tucking themselves way back into every "holler" just to be left alone.
That sense of self-sufficiency and independence, over the last fifty years, drew back-to-the-landers who also wanted to get out of the system and do it themselves. Asheville's natural diversity, then, extends through its agriculture into its arts and culture. The preference for what's local, for what's homegrown, runs through everything from beer to music. And it's no new fad. Our sense of place comes from the land.
In Asheville, we choose to take responsibility for our lives. We know it takes having our hands and roots in the ground to blossom. The difference today is that do-it-yourself no longer means doing it alone. We are a community held together by these mountains, and we welcome you to join us.
For more about Asheville, visit ExploreAsheville.com.