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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

bok choy

An abundance of leafy greens cover farmers tailgate markets these days, and even if you regularly fill your bag with kale and collards, there are more options than ever for trying new varieties. Here’s a rundown of what you might discover at markets this winter.

Broccoli raab and rapini. Despite its namesake, broccoli raab is more closely related to turnips, and its greens and small florets cook up similarly to mustard greens. According to the farmers at Lee’s One Fortune Farm (Asheville City Market–Winter and River Arts District Winter Market), the difference between broccoli raab and rapini has to do with the its planting and harvest time. Broccoli raab is traditionally a spring crop, planted in fall and overwintered. Rapini is harvested in the fall and is slightly sweeter. Thanks to the mild season so far this winter, Lee’s One Fortune actually has both varieties available right now, so you can sample and compare.

Bok choy, yu choy, and bok raab. Speaking of raab, Ten Mile Farm (Asheville City Market–Winter) is calling the flowering tips of its bok choy harvest bok raab. It has a similar mild mustard and pepper flavor as bok choy (which you’ll find at Lee’s One Fortune as well), but has yellow flowers and florets like rapini and broccoli raab. For a more robust flavor, look for yu choy from Lee’s One Fortune. This leafy green looks a bit like Chinese broccoli, but has texture and flavor like bok choy.

Spinach and Taiwan spinach. In the winter months, spinach is at its sweetest, as the colder temperatures force the plant to convert its starches into sugar. You’ll find it now from Wildwood Herbal and Jake’s Farm (both at Asheville City Market–Winter) and Greenshine Farm (River Arts District Winter Market). Taiwan spinach, from Lee’s One Fortune, has longer stems and an arrow-like shape and is milder than regular spinach. Cook these tender stems alongside the leaves.

Watercress. This green, another in the mustard family, is sometimes considered a weed or relegated to garnish status, but is actually delicious raw or cooked. You can eat its leaves and tender stems in a salad or try sautéing the entire bunch with a bit of garlic. Find it at Lee’s One Fortune Farm.

Mustard greens. For more varieties of mustard greens, look for the mixed bunches from Highgate Farm (River Arts District Winter Market), which include Japanese red mustard, curly leaf mustard, and other varieties. 

In addition to these leafy greens, vendors now have sweet potatoes, potatoes, apples, turnips, carrots, radishes, cabbage, salad greens, eggs, meat, cheese, bread, baked goods, and much more.

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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