Pollen-induced spring allergies have seemed particularly high in our region this year. Many of us are searching for miracle cures to stop the sneezing. Farmers markets right now offer a few traditional herbal or food-based remedies for allergic reactions that might just work for you. (And even if they don’t, they’re delicious!)
It might seem a little counterintuitive that an herb that causes a painful contact rash is also a powerful antidote to allergic reactions. But stinging nettle is a well-established anti-inflammatory herb that reduces allergy symptoms with continued use. Bear Necessities Farm has nettle plant starts, so you can start to grow your own. Wild Goods has wood nettle, a different variety than the more common stinging nettle (though it also stings). Thicker stems gives wood nettle a more vegetal quality that compares somewhat to asparagus. Find Bear Necessities at Asheville City and West Asheville markets; Wild Goods is at East Asheville Tailgate Market.
Cooking nettle deactivates the sting and makes it safe to handle and eat. You can boil, sauté, or even dehydrate it. Just make sure to wear gloves prior to cooking. Nettle tea is the most common medicinal use, but you can also use nettle in pesto, soup, smoothies, quiche, and more. Try blending blanched nettle leaves with yogurt, lemon juice, mint, and green garlic or garlic scapes for a creamy dip for raw veggies. Green garlic is available from Lee’s One Fortune Farm at Asheville, Black Mountain, West Asheville, River Arts District, and East Asheville markets. Highgate Farm has the first garlic scapes we’ve seen this season at Black Mountain, West Asheville, and River Arts District markets. (Garlic is also useful as an anti-inflammatory, decongestant, and immune booster.)
Local honey is another farmers market product said to alleviate allergies. Evidence is mixed on whether the pollen it contains can act as immunotherapy, making your immune system less likely to produce a strong reaction. Regardless, honey can help soothe a sore throat and suppress a cough, and is certainly a tasty addition to your spring allergy medicine box. Find local honey vendors at every market in the area. You can also try jun, a fermented drink made from green tea and raw honey, often blended with nourishing ingredients like ginger and turmeric. Shanti Elixirs sells jun at Asheville City and North Asheville markets.
At farmers markets now you’ll also find an abundance of veggies, including asparagus, carrots, turnips, radishes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, and greens like lettuce, arugula, chard, kale, spinach, bok choy, and mustard greens. Strawberries are the first fruits of the season and available widely. Markets are also stocked with a variety of meats, cheese, rice, pasta, bread, drinks, and prepared foods. Find more details about farms and markets throughout the region in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.