THE LOCAL TASTEMAKERS
Seasoning company Well Seasoned Table offers the unique flavors of Southern Appalachia and beyond.
BY ASHLEY ENGLISH | PHOTOS BY NATE BURROWS
From the moment I step onto Sarah Wickers’ farm, nestled atop an undulating ridge in Candler’s Upper Hominy Valley, something feels different. Maybe it’s the enviable apple trees, overflowing with ripening fruits. Maybe it’s the heady aroma emanating from the happy lavender plants growing at the farm’s edge. Maybe it’s the gathering storm clouds that are rapidly approaching the afternoon of my visit, creating a captivating and dramatic sky.
Whatever the reason, Wickers’ farm—home to over 100 ingredients used by her herb and spice company, Well Seasoned Table, or WST—is a deeply enchanting place.
Sitting on land owned by her family for over a century, the Well Seasoned Table farm has culinary herbs including sage and winter savory, as well as medicinal herbs like echinacea and mullein. There are also wild foraged greens such as nettle, lambsquarters and dandelion, as well as wild mushrooms, spices like spice bush and fruits such as pawpaw and persimmon, transforming the farm into a veritable Eden in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
All of the ingredients show up in Well Seasoned Table’s catalog of products: farmhouse seasonings, herbal beverages and infused sea salts and sugars. To be sure, the company, founded in 2014, marries Wickers’ background in ecology with a passion for cooking and baking.
“The business is my art,” says Wickers, who studied ecology at UNC Asheville. “I share love through cooking. I was looking at my legacy and what I wanted it to be. This farm is what came to me.”
Many of the WST blends and seasonings offer the unique flavors of Southern Appalachia, inspiring home cooks to try new recipes, often created by Wickers and her team and posted on the company’s website. The popular Blue Ridge Sugar—made with organic cane sugar, blueberries, lavender, lemon peel and butterfly pea flower—creates a thirst-quenching lemonade. Magic Garlic Dust—a top seller made with whole roasted garlic, Celtic Sea Salt, whole black garlic, edible flowers, parsley, black pepper and celery leaf—gives a flavor kick to a cheesy spinach and mushroom dip.
On the day of my visit, I’m treated to a sample and, no lie, I audibly groan in delight. The farm includes a 1,300-square-foot production facility, including a working kitchen, drying room, walk-in cooler, packing room and office. There is bespoke wood shelving throughout the production area, crafted from logs sourced directly from the property.
As we enter the kitchen, Production Manager Esther Reynolds is at various turns destemming lavender buds, drying chive blossoms and massaging lemon zest. Together with Sales Manager Katie-Lynn Mc- Donald and Wickers, the three work together on product development.
“Sometimes [ideas] come from a moment of inspiration,” Wickers says. “Other times, they are based on a single ingredient that we want to use; and other times it is a very strategic type of product that we want to create, and we have different ways of approaching that product’s development.”
A collaboration with the fire cider maker Pure Fire Foods is a great example. After the fire cider is strained, there is leftover herbs and plant material (called marc) that WST incorporates into some of its products. “When [Pure Fire owner] David Rosenthal brought me in some of his fire cider marc to see what I could do with it, we ended up coming up with three different collaborations: Smoked Fire Seasoning, WST House Grinder, and Fiery Golden Milk,” she says.
The process seems to be working. In 2021, Taste of the South magazine named Well Seasoned Table one of the 50 Best Tastemakers of the South. And last spring, the nonprofit group NC IDEA, which works to identify small businesses it believes has “high potential”—awarded the company a competitive grant for $50,000.
Wickers is spending some of her time these days on efforts to expand and reshape the farm into something bigger. “The farm is transitioning to being a permaculture farm,” Wickers says. “We will be doing a major reorganization—transplanting, planting, dirt moving, ponds, herbal labyrinth—this fall.”
There is also an effort underway to structure the WST farm as a nonprofit, with a focus on education and research through connection. “We are still in the beginning planning phases of this, but I am truly excited to see the farm develop into a community space for learning and peace,” she says.
Since its founding nearly a decade ago, Well Seasoned Table has created a network of local and well-known businesses with whom it partners to create new products. The resulting seasonings and teas deliver a truly authentic taste of Asheville.
A collaboration with chocolate company French Broad Chocolates and ginger beer maker Ginger’s Revenge has resulted in WST’s Dark Chocolate Figgy Pudding Tea, which incorporates cacao husks, Peruvian dark chocolate chips and a ginger mash. (Grind it up with coffee beans for a truly spectacular cup of joe.) Another project with fermentation company Fermenti and the Leicester-based Gaining Ground Farm has yielded Appalachian Lemon Sea Salt, a zesty addition to hummus, chicken, veggies, potatoes and soups.
“We work to support and collaborate with companies, not to com- pete with them,” Wickers says.
The company’s roots are further reflected in illustrations for the packaging. Penned by local artists, Carley Lee and Emory Brandon, they can often showcase Wickers’ mentors and colleagues, as was the case in the Wild Green Goddess series, featuring Jeannie Dunn of Red Moon Herbs, Lori Jenkins of Sister of Mother Earth and Wickers’ own grandmother, Anna Israel.
As a local homesteader and cookbook author, I’m already quite familiar with Wickers’ work and the success of her business. She is both a friend and a neighbor, located just a mile up the road from my own home, and I’ve watched Well Seasoned Table grow over the years.
But when I stopped by on that recent afternoon to tour the farm—ambling about the nearly 10-acre property, with farm dog Fern our constant companion—I’m struck by the magnitude of what she’s doing. With dozens of products in her inventory—available at multiple local farmers markets and boutiques, as well as direct sales through her website—Wickers is looking to create amazing products that are grown and harvested in a sustainable way, all while helping to create a network of local food producers that is increasingly resilient.
“Well Seasoned Table is about changing the spice industry,” she says. “It’s all about the farmers, and the many beautiful ways we can all support each other.”
Ashley English is the author of 11 books, including The Essential Book of Homesteading and Southern From Scratch. She lives in Candler, NC, with her husband, Glenn; two young sons, Huxley and Alistair; and a menagerie of animals. She can be found chronicling her adventures in homesteading and beyond at smallmeasure.com.
Sarah Wicker of Well Seasoned Table with the author, Ashley English