A Sweet Toast to Spring Markets

Outdoor markets are finally here, and farmers will load up their vans with spring produce, meat, and more for the opening day of Asheville City Market on Saturday, April 7, 2018. Summer veggies are still seedlings, growing inch by inch in the hoop houses of local farmers, but in the meantime, there are other foods to try at markets, including cheese, baked goods, spring greens, and honey.

This year at the downtown Asheville City Market, there will be samples of mead to sip while shopping. Mead is made by fermenting honey with water, and is sometimes called honey wine. While it’s best known as an ancient drink enjoyed during Medieval times, there has been a renewed interest in mead in the United States, especially in the Southern Appalachians where honey is abundant.

You might think that mead would be very sweet, but spices, fruits, and grains can be added to change the flavor profile. Aron Wehr, owner of Wehrloom Honey, explains that his iteration of mead is slightly different. “I think a lot of people have this idea that it’s made with honey so it’s going to be sweet. We’re more on the beer end of the spectrum. So our products tend to be dry, and a little bit carbonated,” he says.

Aron and his wife Jessica started out as beekeepers, expanded into beeswax skincare products, and are now making mead. They have a brick and mortar store in Robbinsville where they sell their products, and also a tap room for their mead. Their taproom is one of the only places in the Robbinsville area to drink alcoholic beverages because of alcohol laws in Graham county.

Now, after finding a niche in the far western part of the state, they are expanding into the Asheville area by becoming a vendor at Asheville City Market. “This is actually our first year with the City Market so we’re super excited. We will do tastings, just 1-2 ounce samples so people can try it,” he says. In addition to their classic mead, they will offer different varieties throughout the year, including strawberry lemon mead in summer, and apple flavored mead in fall.

No matter the season, going to the farmers market is a big undertaking for Wehr and his team. “We’re two hours away,” he says. “So we wake up at 4 a.m. and load the truck and head out. It usually takes us at least half hour to 45 minutes just to set up, and then hang out and talk to people all day. Then we break it all down and drive home. It is a long day, a long and early day.”

He says it’s worth the extra effort because he can expand his reach into Asheville and connect with the city’s abundance of restaurants and its community of home cooks who seek out local food. He hopes that some of the Asheville chefs who shop at farmers markets will try a sample, and that shoppers will take home a bottle or two of his mead.

Celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary, the opening day of the outdoor Asheville City Market is this Saturday, April 7th, 2018. It’s held each week on North Market Street in downtown Asheville, featuring 60 vendors. Like a lot of outdoor farmers markets, it has a street fair atmosphere. Farmers set up their tents along two city blocks, and shoppers can start the morning with coffee and breakfast before they pick up their groceries for the week.

Looking for a farmers market outside of Asheville? Markets across the region are coming out of hibernation. The Mars Hill Farmers & Artisans Market also starts this weekend, along with the Henderson County Tailgate Market. Even more markets will welcome shoppers in the coming weeks, including farmers markets in Morganton, Tryon, Swain County, Spruce Pine, and Avery County.

Find the opening dates and locations of outdoor farmers markets throughout the Southern Appalachians in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide: www.appalachiangrown.org

Aired date April 2, 2018.

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