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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

a handful of sweet potatoes

As farmers tailgate markets have grown in recent years, it gets easier to eat local through the winter and still enjoy some variety. Even so, we suspect there’s a moment for even the most ardent local eaters when you ask, “But what else can I do with sweet potatoes?” The classic winter storage crop is a standby at fall and winter markets (at Asheville City Market-Winter, look for them from Ten Mile Farm or Sleight Family Farm). They can be easily roasted, pureed, fried, and gratinéed for cold-weather meals, but we’re here to offer a few less conventional ideas to add to your repertoire.

Use sweet potatoes to replace gluten. Maybe you haven’t fully embraced Paleo, but you’d like to reduce the white flour in your diet. A spiralizer turns a peeled sweet potato into noodles, which you can roast or gently sauté (use a nonstick skillet for best results). Top with bolognese, kale, and cheese for a comforting pasta alternative, or make a Thai-style curry with greens from Lee’s One Fortune Farm. You can also use thinly sliced sweet potatoes (a mandolin makes it easier) as a quiche crust. Layer the slices in overlapping concentric circles in an oiled pie dish and bake until slightly tender (about 20 minutes at 375 degrees). Add your favorite egg filling and bake until set (another 35 minutes or so).

Drink your sweet potatoes. Use a juicer to extract a vibrant, creamy elixir that’s good on its own or in combination with other winter market flavors, such as turmeric (Gibson Berry Farm), apples (Creasman Farms), or carrots. The Korean goguma latte is another option—a frothy concoction of steamed sweet potatoes blended with milk and sugar and drunk from a mug. Top with cinnamon and ground nuts, if you like. Purple-skinned sweet potatoes with pale flesh are the traditional choice for the drink, but experiment with whatever variety appeals most.

Eat them for dessert. That sweet potato classic—topped with marshmallows—is essentially a dessert masquerading as a side dish, but the tuber finds a home in other treats as well. Fold sweet potato puree into brownie batter for a chocolate treat that’s dense, rich, and fudgy (and not at all vegetal). Sweet potatoes can also transform a cheesecake or Spanish flan, substitute for pumpkin pie, or find their way into a layer cake or cupcakes with cinnamon-spiced buttercream (or, if you insist, marshmallow fluff).

Area farmers tailgate markets take place throughout the region, even through the winter. As always, you can find information about farms, tailgate markets, and farm stands, including locations and hours, by visiting ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.

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