Seasonality is inherently ephemeral — all local produce is only available for a limited time of the year. Certain produce embodies this more noticeably than others: asparagus is often cited as one of the go-to examples of the temporality of food — it is one of the first things ready to harvest in the spring, and its season only lasts for approximately six weeks. Less often referred to varieties have similarly fleeting availability, and there a few such foods present at area farmers tailgate markets this time of year, including chestnuts, sugar snap peas, arugula, grapes, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Chestnut trees have a rich and sorrowful history in America. They were once incredibly prolific throughout the Eastern United States, and humans, animals, and other plants relied on them for their nuts, shelter, timber, and nutrients. In the early 1900s a blight was accidentally brought from overseas, and within 40 years the population decreased from an estimated 30,000 trees to less than 100. Before the blight, approximately 25% of the trees in the Appalachians were American Chestnuts, and they could grow up to almost 100 feet tall, and almost 10 feet wide. Today, there are institutions and organizations working to restore the American Chestnut. One of the ways is through a hybridized cross between the Chinese Chestnut and the American Chestnut.
Meadow Cove Farm has chestnuts from their hybrid Chinese-American trees and you can find them at West Asheville Tailgate Market and Asheville City Market. They have been growing their chestnut trees for 12 years, and this season is the third year that the trees have bore harvestable nuts.
The nuts from these trees are only available to harvest for approximately three to four weeks out of the year. Chestnuts are perishable, and need to be eaten while fresh, unless properly preserved. Meadow Cove Farm will have nuts for sale for another two to three more weeks.
To eat the nuts, score the husks (like you would a potato before baking them), and then roast them in the oven, or boil them, and then remove husks. They can then be added to stir-fries, roasted veggies, stuffings, sauces, and whatever you can think of to add them to — savory or sweet!
What are other examples of transitory produce available right now? Sugar snap peas, which you can get from Second Spring Market Garden (French Broad Food Co-op Wednesday Tailgate Market and Asheville City Market) and Root Bottom Farm (West Asheville Tailgate Market and Madison County Farmers Market). Broccoli and cauliflower are back for the fall, after disappearing during the hottest months, and will be around until mid- to late November. Some of the first of these has been spotted from King Harvest Farm at Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market. Ivy Creek Family Farm (North Asheville Tailgate Market and Weaverville Tailgate Market) is letting folks know that they will have arugula for a limited time, so get it while it’s here. And, McConnell Farms (Asheville City Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market, and North Asheville Tailgate Market) may have the last of their grapes this week or next week.arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, chestnuts, grapes, sugar snap peas