Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

Corn, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos—it’s officially salsa season at farmers tailgate markets! 
Two markets are offering special events capitalizing on salsa fever: West Asheville Tailgate Market’s Pepperpalooza will take place this Tuesday, July 23, featuring a hot pepper eating contest, hot sauce tasting, demonstrations of ristra (a traditional Spanish method for drying peppers), and more. Weaverville Tailgate Market’s salsa competition and fundraiser is the following week, on Wednesday, July 31. Register to enter via the market’s Facebook page—or just show up to taste the contenders and vote your picks.

What salsa ingredients should you look for at markets? Tomatoes and peppers are plentiful. You can find heirloom tomatoes in mixed hues, sweet cherries, or meaty slicers. All make an excellent base for pico de gallo. Choose peppers with your preferred level of heat, and don’t hesitate to ask the farmer which are spicy or mild. Red onions or scallions to round out your salsa are also widely available.
You may find cilantro by the bunch (Lee’s One Fortune Farm, at many markets, had it last week), but for the most part, that crop has bolted in the summer heat. Micro cilantro can be a good alternative; look for it from Asheville Microgreens (River Arts District Farmers Market) or other microgreen sellers. 
Corn made its first appearance this past week from Lee’s One Fortune Farm and Creasman Farms (Asheville City Market, Black Mountain Tailgate Market, River Arts District Farmers Market). You can add kernels raw to your salsa or grill the ears first for a charred flavor (the same goes for your peppers). 
Gaining Ground Farm (North Asheville Tailgate Market, River Arts District Farmers Market) has tomatillos, another member of the nightshade family that makes great salsa. Tomatillos look like green tomatoes wrapped in a papery husk, but are less watery, with a brighter, more acidic flavor. Remove the husks and rinse them to remove the slightly sticky film. As with corn, you can eat them raw or cooked—sliced in half and grilled or roasted works well. For a zippy salsa verde, pulse them in a food processor with cilantro, white onion, and hot green peppers such as jalapeño or serrano. 
Husk cherries, related to the tomatillo, are a rare find, but Bear Necessities Farm (Asheville City Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market) has them. Also called ground cherries or strawberry tomatoes, these fruits look like tiny, yellow-orange tomatillos, but are much sweeter, with a tropical, pineapple-like flavor. Use them raw in a fruity salsa (if you can resist snacking on them all). 
And speaking of fruit salsas, there are myriad fruits at markets now you can use, including peaches, nectarines, blueberries, and blackberries. Use them in place of tomatoes, or combine them with less traditional salsa ingredients, like cucumber.
As you’re planning your salsa feast, be sure to pick up some corn tortillas from J Bread (Asheville City Market, East Asheville Tailgate Market). The bakery, which sources grains exclusively from Carolina Ground and Farm and Sparrow, is using traditional nixtamalization process, which involves cooking dried corn kernels in a limewater solution, to produce tortillas from completely local grain.
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 at

Sign Up for Our Newsletters