Farmers tailgate markets often provide entertainment in the form of musicians or even, on occasion, dancers or flash mobs. But sometimes the performance can come from the farmers. This week, stop to watch for a few minutes as Tou Lee of Lee’s One Fortune Farm demonstrates how to peel fresh bamboo shoots at his booth. You can find Lee’s One Fortune Farm at Asheville City, River Arts District, East Asheville, and West Asheville markets.
Fresh, these early spring vegetables look a little like giant asparagus and can be green or purple. The tough outer leaves need to be removed before cooking. You can buy them freshly peeled from the Lees, or watch and learn how it’s done. If you’re not planning to eat it the same day you buy it, you should wait to peel your bamboo at home, as the flesh will slowly start to discolor once it is peeled. Clean the shoot by slicing down the sides with a sharp kitchen knife to reveal the tender, pale yellow interior. Cut off the firm top and bottom and make sure you’ve removed all of the purple or darker color.
To eat, boil bamboo shoots for 20 minutes to remove bitterness. You can then slice it and add to curries, salads, stir-frys, or whatever other dish you’d like to experiment with. Cooked bamboo shoots are still crunchy, with a texture like water chestnuts. They taste a little like artichoke hearts. Once cooked, bamboo shoots will only last a day or so in your refrigerator, but you can pickle or freeze them to have them available for future dishes.
For a meal, combine bamboo shoots with other market ingredients for a hot and sour dumpling soup. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat three tablespoons of mild oil. Sauté eight ounces of sliced shiitake mushrooms and two tablespoons minced fresh ginger for a minute, until fragrant. Add eight cups of chicken or vegetable broth, one-third cup soy sauce, and one cup of sliced bamboo shoots. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add 12 frozen dumplings. Cook at a low simmer for about five minutes, until dumplings are heated through. In a small bowl, whisk together one-fourth cup water and two tablespoons cornstarch. Stir into soup along with three tablespoons white vinegar. Cook for about two minutes, until broth as thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish as you prefer with cilantro, scallions, and chili peppers.
Pick up pork or vegetable dumplings from J Chong Eats (East Asheville or Asheville City markets). Look for shiitake or other varieties of mushrooms from Black Trumpet Farm at North or River Arts District markets or The Forest Farmacy (formerly Asheville Fungi) at West Asheville or Asheville City or markets. Cilantro and scallions are available from Lee’s One Fortune Farm.
At farmers markets now you’ll also find carrots, parsnips, turnips, radishes, apples, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and greens like lettuce, kale, spinach, broccoli rabe, and bok choy. Markets are also stocked with a variety of meats, cheese, rice, pasta, bread, pastries, drinks, and prepared foods. Find more details about farms and markets throughout the region in ASAP’s onlineLocal Food Guide.