Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

Fall begins officially next week and we’re definitely starting to feel the temperature drop. Mornings have us wanting to stay wrapped up in a blanket with a hot cup of tea. Happily, September has brought an excellent tea-making crop to area farmers tailgate markets—red Thai roselles. You can get them from Sleight Family Farm at North Asheville Tailgate Market and New Roots Market Garden at ASAP Farmers Market and West Asheville Tailgate Market

These beautiful maroon flowers are a species of hibiscus with a sweet-tart flavor. Among its other names around the world are “Jamaican sorrel” and “Florida cranberry,” though it is unrelated to either of those plants. The tea is similar to the commercially available Red Zinger. In addition to using roselles fresh, they can be dried or frozen. 
To prepare tea, peel the petals (or, technically, calyx) away from the seed pods. The easiest way to do this is to cut off the stem end with a paring knife, then pull the petals away from the base. Rinse, then add to boiling water. You can vary your ratio and time according to taste, but two quarts of water for about three-quarters cup of cleaned roselles and simmering for 10 minutes is a good place to start. (You can remove the boiling water from the heat and steep for 30 minutes instead.) The result is a deeply pink liquid that can be sweetened with honey or sugar and enjoyed hot or over ice. Try combining it with spices, such as cinnamon, clove, or allspice, or with fresh ginger or lime juice for more of an agua fresca take. 
Tea not your fancy? Roselles are very high in pectin and great for making jam or an alternative to cranberry sauce for your Thanksgiving dinner. You can also whisk a roselle reduction with olive oil and lemon juice for a zippy salad dressing. 
Not quite ready to let summertime go? We made our roselles into popsicles. 
At markets now you’ll also find tomatoes, corn, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, potatoes, winter squash, greens, and herbs, as well as meat, eggs, bread, cheese, fermented products, baked goods, and beverages. Find more details about farms and markets throughout the region in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.

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