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Darrin Nordahl is the author of Public Produce: Cultivating Our Parks, Plazas and Streets for Healthier Cities. He blogs daily about food at 365wholefoods.com and has written for CNN, the Huffington Post, and Grist.org. He lives in northern California.

Dozens of indigenous fruits, vegetables, nuts, and game animals are waiting to be rediscovered by American epicures, and Appalachia stocks the largest pantry with these delectable flavors. In EATING APPALACHIA, Darrin Nordahl looks at the uniquely flavorful foods that are native to the region, including pawpaws, ramps, hickory nuts, American persimmons, and elk, and offers delicious and award-winning recipes for each ingredient, along with sumptuous color photographs. Nordahl also examines some of the business, governmental and ecological issues that keep these wild, and arguably tastier, foods from reaching our tables.

EATING APPALACHIA profiles local chefs, hunters, and locavores who champion these native ingredients and describes food festivals—like the Pawpaw Festival in Albany, Ohio, the Feast of the Ramson in Richwood, West Virginia, and Elk Night at Jenny Wiley State Park, Prestonsburg, Kentucky—that celebrate them.

Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Pawpaw Cream Sauce

Serves 4


Here is a fantastic “everyday dish.” The flavors are so luxurious, you might think this recipe should be reserved for special occasions. But the ingredients and preparation are so accessible, this works as a fine Tuesday night meal.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or any other cooking oil with a neutral flavor and a high smoke point)
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Spicebush berries, freshly ground, to taste
  • ½ cup pawpaw pulp
  • Fresh tarragon for garnish

Rub salt and pepper into each chicken breast and set aside for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the grapeseed oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the chicken breasts and sear for 3–4 minutes on each side, or until the meat takes on a honeyed color. Add the minced shallots during the last minute of sautéing.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan and simmer uncovered until the wine is reduced by half. Remove the breasts from the skillet and set aside. (Note: the breasts will still be undercooked in the center at this point.)

Now add the heavy cream to the skillet. Once it comes to a boil, season with more salt and freshly ground spicebush berries to taste, and then pour in the pawpaw. Stir until ingredients are well melded. Place the chicken breasts in the cream sauce and simmer until done.

Place a single breast on a plate, drizzle with the pawpaw cream sauce, and top with fresh tarragon. Serve with your favorite late summer vegetables (I like sautéed zucchini).




Serves 8


This is a treat throughout Appalachia, and very easy to make. The citrusy notes of sumac are a fantastic substitute for fresh lemon. If you are able to, choose staghorn sumac and harvest it at its ripest (typically late August). The red velvet color of the berries will yield a shocking pink beverage, a refreshing delight for both the eyes and the mouth.


  • 6–8 large sumac flower heads
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • White sugar, honey, agave nectar, or other sweetener of choice, to taste
  • 1 lime, sliced

I always advise washing your fresh produce well. But not sumac. Vigorous rinsing of fresh sumac berries washes away both color and flavor. For this reason, avoid picking sumac after a rain.

Take each panicle and separate the berries from the stems. Place the berries in cold water (never hot, as this brings out bitter flavors). Gently mash the berries with your hands, and let sit for about 4 hours (less or more, depending on the desired color and flavor).

Strain the liquid into a large pitcher. Make sure you use fine jelly cloth or several layers of cheesecloth to catch the numerous tiny hairs of the sumac berries. Sweeten to taste. Pour into an old-fashioned glass with ice and garnish with a slice of lime.


These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from EATING APPALACHIA: Rediscovering regional American flavors by Darrin Nordahl. (Chicago Review Press, June 2015; $19.95/hardcover; ISBN: 978-1613730225)

Contact: Sara Pokorny