Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

As the seasons are shifting towards cooler nights and shorter days, and the leaves are starting to change, it is the time of year to cozy up with warming ginger tea or hot apple cider to celebrate the fall harvest and prepare for the winter. Apples, pumpkins, ginger, turmeric, winter squash and sweet potatoes are among some fall favorites that you can find throughout our region, providing just the right combination of flavors, and inspiration for so many delightful and nourishing meals.
 Apples are a special crop to Western North Carolina. While the late spring frost this year impacted orchards throughout the region, in some instances claiming 90 percent of the apple crop, you can still find some of those sweet fruits throughout our tailgate market region. It is more important than ever to support our farmers who are growing these fruits and hope that next year’s harvest will produce a better bounty. 
Apples can be preserved in many ways, but nothing says welcome to fall better than warm, homemade apple butter on some fresh bread you just picked up at the market. A favorite way to prepare this seasonal favorite is in a slow cooker, which leaves the house filled with scents of cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla. The autumnal scent of apples and spices slow cooking on a cool fall day might even rival the smell of the best chocolate chip cookies being baked around the holidays. And it’s such a simple pleasure to bestow anyone who may enter your kitchen and home.
To begin, pick your mix of apples from the market. You can use any apples you have, but softer varieties can be better for apple butter. Ask the farmers for their recommendations. You can find local apples from Creasman Farms (ASAP, North Asheville, and River Arts District markets), McConnell Farm and Thatchmore Farm (both at North and West Asheville markets), and Bright Branch Farm (East Asheville Tailgate Market).
Place the 6 ½ pounds of apples in the slow cooker. Mix together approximately 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet your apples are), 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, and ¼ teaspoon salt, then add to the slow cooker. Let these slow cook for about 10 hours. When everything is thickened and dark brown, add a tablespoon of vanilla extract and let cook uncovered for another couple hours. Next, use an immersion blender to blend everything together into a velvety smooth texture. 
Enjoy your fall treat on some fresh bread or biscuits or the end of a spoon! You can store the extra in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. For longer preservation, look into freezing or canning—or share any extra with your neighbors. 
Tailgate markets now are also stocked with dark leafy greens, like kale, chard, and mustards; a panoply of winter squash; staples such as carrots, potatoes, and onions; fruits like apples, pears, figs, and grapes; and the last of the season’s peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. As always, you’ll also find 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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