Each week brings a new wave of produce items to area farmers tailgate markets. Some are vegetables we know, love, and use prolifically in the dishes we prepare. Others may be new to us; we may need to experiment with a recipe we’ve never tried or ask a farmer how they like to cook. It’s exciting to step outside our culinary comfort zones, and farmers at market are happy to make it smoother with their wonderfully cultivated produce and knowledgeable suggestions!
Dreamy Bean Farm at Asheville City Market and West Asheville Tailgate Market now has fava beans. If purchasing fava beans, remember to shell them before cooking and eating. Sauteing, boiling, or blanching are the most common recommended preparations. Once cooked, the beans can be made into a spring salad with additions such as asparagus, fresh garlic, bacon, and English peas (which you can also get from Dreamy Bean Farm). Another great recipe is to boil and mash them, then add oil, spices, hard-boiled eggs, and a fresh herb such as parsley.
Shiitakes are back! Find them from vendors such as Long Valley Eco-Biotic Farm (Weaverville Tailgate Market and West Asheville Tailgate Market). Mix shiitakes into egg scrambles, stir-fries, or dishes with pasta from Rio Bertolini at Asheville City Market.
Fennel is an herb most known for the seeds and leaves that provide its strong, licorice-like flavor, which sometimes leaves the fennel bulb to be overlooked. This white bulb can be cooked and eaten like a root vegetable. The signature licorice-like flavor mellows when cooked and becomes quite sweet. This makes fennel great for caramelizing, roasting, or braising. Add it to pasta dishes, use it to accompany proteins (meat, fish, etc.), or eat it on its own with Parmesan cheese. Fennel also makes a great slaw when chopped raw. Many farmers at market have fennel, including Gaining Ground Farm at North Asheville Tailgate Market and River Arts District Farmers Market.
As we get further into spring, there will be an increasingly wider array of fruits and vegetables. In addition to produce, you can always find a range of meats, cheeses, eggs, breads, baked goods, value-added items, plant starts, fresh flowers, and other treats!
Area farmers tailgate markets take place throughout the region. As always, you can find information about farms, tailgate markets, and farm stands, including locations and hours, by visiting ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.