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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

Peppers are really coming into their own at farmers tailgate markets right now. These bright nightshades can vary so much in flavor, heat, color, size, and texture. Asking the farmer about the varieties they’re growing is a great way to learn about new types and get tips on how you might prepare them. 

Ají dulce are one of our favorites to look for each season. They smell and taste similar to habañeros, but are sweet instead of hot. Look for them from Gaining Ground Farm (North Asheville Tailgate MarketRiver Arts District Farmers Market) and Whaley Homestead (East Asheville Tailgate Market). Their smoky flavor lends itself well to a milder version of hot sauce, or you can mix them with other types of peppers, like cayenne, to dial in the heat. 

Thai bird’s eye chiles are on the opposite side of the heat spectrum—extreme! Find these tiny but fierce peppers sold by the bag from Lee’s One Fortune Farm (many markets). You can use them as you would any hot pepper (but be careful—a little goes a long way), or you can preserve them in vinegar, which will slightly soften their bite. Nam som prik don is a simple pickle made by slicing chiles into 1/4-inch pieces and covering with white vinegar for at least 30 minutes (but longer is better). Use both the vinegar and the peppers to season dishes for the rest of the year. 

Mirasols are usually destined to become dried guajillo chiles, but Ten Mile Farm (Asheville City Market, River Arts District Farmers Market) is selling them fresh. These dark red, mild to medium peppers have a thicker skin, which is why they are most often dried, but try them in soups or bean dishes. Their flavor is often described as fruity or berry-like. Or try drying them yourself to them to make your own store of guajillos. Methods for drying include hanging the peppers in a dry location for several weeks; using a dehydrator; or on racks in a low-temperature oven.

Beyond peppers, you’ll find tomatoes, corn, eggplant, summer squash, winter squash, beans, potatoes, okra, melons, peaches, figs, blackberries, blueberries, Asian pears, apples, fennel, carrots, beets, garlic, onions, leeks, lettuce, salad mix, chard, bok choy, cabbage, sprouts, microgreens, mushrooms, eggs, cheese, meat, seafood, bread, fermented products, baked goods, and 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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