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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

corn from McConnell Farms

There are many methods for shopping at farmers tailgate markets. There’s the make-a-list-in-advance tactic (we offer a weekly rundown here for that kind of shopper). There’s the do-a-lap-first-then-form-a-plan strategy. And then there’s the grab-everything-that-looks-good-and-figure-it-out-later approach. It’s after shopping excursions like the latter that we fully appreciate a dish like succotash.

Succotash is a truly American recipe, though not necessarily Southern, despite what you might have heard. Its roots are Native American, with the Narragansett word msíckquatash translating loosely as “boiled corn kernels.” Despite these Northeastern beginnings, permutations of succotash have firmly embedded themselves in the foodways of regions across the county, including Southern Appalachia. Aside from corn, ingredients might include beans, summer squash, winter squash, tomatoes, okra, peppers, eggplant, and more. Basically, you can simmer just about any seasonal vegetables with corn, salt, and fat and call it succotash. This is what makes it clutch for utilizing a full market bag.

Historically, succotash centered around the Three Sisters—corn, beans, and squash—which many Native American tribes cultivated as companion crops. Winter succotash was made from dried corn and beans along with pumpkin. The more widely imitated summer version is made with fresh corn, shelling beans, and summer squash. Sometimes succotash is simmered with heavy cream, sometimes butter, often with bacon or other pork fat. Or you can keep it vegan and use only olive oil. 

Shell beans are not as common at our area markets as beans eaten pod and all, though a few farms will start to have edamame soon, which can stand in for the more traditional lima beans. Or simply substitute whatever green/yellow/purple beans caught your eye this week. Start with a base of sweet onions and garlic sauteed in bacon fat or olive oil until softened. Add corn kernels, beans, and other vegetables like zucchini, okra, eggplant, or peppers (slice or chop these into roughly half-inch pieces, or smaller for hot peppers). If you found shell beans, you’ll want to cook those separately first. Simmer the vegetables in their own juices for about 5–10 minutes, until everything is just tender, then stir in a few tablespoons of butter and/or heavy cream. 

Halved cherry tomatoes, added just at the end and barely simmered, lend the right amount of acid and sweetness. Finish with chopped herbs—we’re partial to basil at this time of year, but tarragon, thyme, or chives are also great. Season with salt and pepper. An ample shake of hot sauce would not be amiss, especially if you have a fermented one from Sweet Brine’d, Serotonin Ferments, or Fermenti on hand. Though it is usually presented as a side dish, you can make succotash the main event served with a bit of crusty bread to sop up the sauce, or top it with grilled sausage or scallops.

Other produce at markets now includes melons, peaches, nectarines, blackberries, blueberries, pears, plums, apples, eggplant, potatoes, fennel, carrots, beets, lettuce, salad mix, chard, bok choy, cabbage, sprouts, microgreens, and mushrooms. You can also find eggs, cheese, meat, seafood, bread, fermented products, baked goods, and so much more.

Area farmers tailgate markets take place throughout the region. 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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