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How food foragers make $300 an hour digging in the dirt

It’s 6 a.m. on a May Saturday, and Alan Muskat has already covered a lot of ground.

Muskat, a food forager who is chief executive officer of Asheville, N.C., tour company No Taste Like Home, is scavenging his neighbor’s timber — with permission — in search of gone-wild decorative bamboo he’ll trade for credit at a local restaurant.

As he walks and searches, he dances around bamboo shoots and other possible edibles as he chats on his mobile phone, his conversation darting from foraging economics to U.S. agrarian history to the fine points of Taoist doctrine. Time to think deeply, Muskat says, is a perk of the pillager.

More folks are starting to think the way Muskat does. Foraging, which has been around as long as people have eaten, has spread from home kitchens to the world’s elite restaurants: Cooks and chefs who want to eat natural, and convince customers that they’re getting something special, turn to locally found mushrooms, wild greens, edible flowers and more.

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