Wild Cookin’ with Hemlock Reishi: Chef Eric Pitts the Chef on the Trail

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Eric Pitts is a chef born in Marietta, Georgia who moved to Rabun County three years ago in search of the homesteading life. Over the past 15+ years, Eric has steadily persevered through the culinary industry to find his bliss, preparing wild gourmet meals.

I met Eric my first week in Rabun county and we shared our love for wild mushrooms and I soon learned that he was also a certified mushroom identifier through Trad Cotter’s safety certification program.

Since then, we have been talking about recipes to promote the relation of wild mushrooms into our local food system.

The Appalachian Forests’ “Lady in Red”, the beautiful Hemlock Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae), is indigenous to the Southeasts’ Hemlock Forests. When young, the Reishi is soft and white opposed to bright red. You’d want to wait till maturity for medicinal extraction.

Chef Eric told me about the edible young white tips of G. tsugae and how there is more protein comparatively than oysters mushrooms.  

I have read up on the science researched from Bangladesh and how young, medicinal polypore like Reishi can be edible and contain unique flavor profile. There is a link to the study at the bottom of this post.

Having the privilege to have a few private dinners with Chef Eric, I have witnessed what he can craft in the kitchen and was previously starved of the experience of the Chef on the Trail. I took him up on the offer, as I am usually excited to introduce wild, complex proteins to my gut biom.

We set out in the morning to the back-country to harvest Reishi in order to craft alcohol extracts, teas and other products. The trails can draw out some of the best conversations and ideas! A good brainstorming session in the woods with a good homie is always a healthy choice.  

After our foraging expedition, we found a campsite near a stream and started cooking.

We used wood and charcoal to start the fire. As the fire was heating up, the Reishi tenders were sliced thin, and set to the side. Chef Eric buttered the cast iron pan and made toast. Next, he sizzled up red bell peppers with the Reishi slices and topped with a little of the southwestern spices.

On the symmetrically cut toast, we dabbed some pimento cheese, garnished with the peppers and tender cut Reishi. I kept my greediness at bay and matched his bites. Chef Eric smiled and said, “Stephen, dig in”.  I went in, closed my eyes and thought about that medicinal polypore bringing me health. Very thankful for the experience Eric!

That is what nature gave us, an abundance of health from the dying hemlock trees. The lifecycle and symbiosis of the forest was witnessed, and, in our curiosity, we tasted the fungal fruit of the hemlock tree and found it was tov.


Roy D N, Azad A K, Sultana F, Anisuzzaman A S M, Khondkar P. Nutritional profile and mineral composition of two edible mushroom varieties consumed and cultivated in Bangladesh. The Journal of Phytopharmacology 2015;4(4):217-220.