Neman Young, a Tennessee expert, demonstrates how food works in Missouri

Jeff Ross does not know what to expect in the forest for food. It could be a mushroom. They can be wild greens. It may be the petals you see all the time but you never know they can be eaten.

Everything he finds goes home to cook. The food it collects determines the menu, not the other way around.

“Marriage is the opposite of grocery shopping,” he said.

Ross is an educator and craftsman, growing up in the woods, on the grounds, in the food that can be gathered in the gardens and even in the cracks between the sidewalks. June 17-18 will give lessons in Inns, St. Albans, on how to get the most out of nature food.

Cattle Feeder said in a recent phone call: “You know what you can get out of your mind.”

This is the third time the course has been offered over the weekend. Among other things, he led up to 16 adventurers into the jungle on the hotel property to pick up some inputs for the chef’s dinner. Some other ingredients come from guest vegetables.

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In the jungle, they search for everything from wild greens to wild garlic, edible weeds such as chick weeds to common and red cedar leaves.

“The flowers are very edible. They belong to the pea family. They are grains. If you eat them, they taste like peas. They are very sweet, very sweet.”

Ross, 53, lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. “We take care of people’s gardens. We grow some plants, vegetables and shrubs. It’s a special garden – ‘good gardening’ is what my wife said,” he said.

Until recently, however, he worked at the BlackBerry Farm Resort in the middle of the Smoke Mountains. It was there for 16 years, the first 11 of which were responsible for organic vegetables. Then he began to cook food for the guests, cooking what they found in the open fire.

“That grew rapidly, and I found myself doing cooking shows every day, and that was a guest request, so three people did it,” he said.

Ross grew up in a gardening family, and his interest was always on the plants. Soon after he studied history at school, his focus was on the historical exploration of plants for food, nutrition, and medicine.

One of the reasons for this is the environment in which he grew up; Eastern Tennessee is biodiversity-rich – about 5,000 species – he called the region “Chlorophyll Central.”

Missouri, he said, is very similar. “In Missouri you can put the broom in the ground and it will grow like weeds,” he said.

Pastors, of course, must always be careful. Wrong plants can make you sick and even kill you – and sometimes these dangerous plants can look like they can be eaten. Feeding chanterelle mushrooms is popular, but if you eat the same fungus, it can make you sick.

“The simplest thing is to start at home and identify the plants that grow around your property. You can check online whether you are eating or not. There may be half a dozen plants you are not eating.

Ross fodder is not about obsession; “I like to collect chanters in the woods, but I like to drive to the store and buy a lemon if I want,” he said. For him, the journey is more important than the destination of food.

“I will never go to the forest to beg. I’m glad I did not find anything. If you go down in search of something, you will lose a million different things.”

“Fishermen say the same thing. You are still in the woods. You always learn something. ”

Feeding with Jeff Ross will be held at St. Albans, 3,500 St. Albans Road, St. Albans, Mo., June 17-18. For more information call 636-458-0131 or visit

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