For a stress-free Thanksgiving, making a plan and doing as much prep work in advance is the way to go. That means you should start your farmers tailgate market list now, and even get some of the shopping out of the way, rather than wait for the mad rush on the final pre-holiday weekend. (Although if you do find you need to do some last-minute shopping, West Asheville Tailgate Market is open on Tuesday and River Arts District Farmers Market is open on Wednesday the week of Thanksgiving.)
Potatoes. Could it be Thanksgiving dinner without mashed potatoes? Luckily, these tubers will keep for several weeks after you buy them, so stock up now. High starch potatoes yield the best mashed results and you can always ask your farmer if you’re not sure the best variety to buy. Russet potatoes are a go-to, mashing to perfect fluffiness and soaking up all the butter and cream. Ten Mile Farm (Asheville City Market) will have russets available for the next several weeks. Medium starchy gold potatoes, on the other hand, still mash reasonably well, but maintain their inherent potato flavor. We like these roughly mashed with olive oil and salt.
Squash and/or pumpkin. Yes, you need to serve pumpkin pie. No, you don’t need to buy a pumpkin. Ask most farmers and they’ll tell you that butternut squash makes the best pie filling. Not only can you buy squash well in advance, you can go ahead and roast it and make puree, which will last in the fridge for up to a week or longer in the freezer. Then when it’s time to make your pies, it’s as easy as using the ubiquitous canned pumpkin.
Apples. Whether you are including them in the stuffing, slicing them up for a salad, or need another option for pie, you’ll want to have plenty of apples on hand for the holiday. Most varieties will keep for a month or more, many for longer, and they’re cheaper by the bag, so go ahead and buy in bulk. Your farmer can advise you on the best apples for pie vs. fresh eating. Find apples at Creasman Farms (Asheville City Market, Black Mountain Tailgate Market, and River Arts District Market) and McConnell Farms (Asheville City Market, North Asheville Tailgate Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market).
Sweet potatoes. Another vegetable that does just fine with a lengthy stay in the pantry, sweet potatoes find their way onto Thanksgiving tables in many ways, including roasted, glazed, as pie filling, as soup, and, yes, mashed and topped with bruleed marshmallow.
Bread. Slightly stale bread works best for stuffing and/or dressing, so you’ll want to grab some early on as well. If you get really ahead, you can go ahead and make stuffing/dressing and freeze it, as this is one of the most forgiving dishes to reheat and serve. You’ll find loads of bread options from Simple Bread (Asheville City Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market), OWL Bakery (North Asheville Tagilate Market), J Bread (Asheville City Market), and Walnut Schoolhouse (River Arts District Farmers Market). Need something gluten-free? Look for Urban Peasants at River Arts District Farmers Market.
This week is your last chance to shop Riverside Tailgate Market (Friday, Nov. 21) and Black Mountain Tailgate Market (Saturday) before they close for the season. Find winter and holiday market dates and hours at asapconnections.org. 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 appalachiangrown.org.