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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

We’ve finally left these late frosts behind and are moving into consistently warm days. It’s time to start day dreaming about summer crops. And, with some farms utilizing greenhouses to speed along warm-weather produce, you can do more than fantasize about the first cucumbers of the season. Both Headwaters Market Garden (ASAP Farmers Market on Saturdays) and Thatchmore Farm (North Asheville Tailgate Market and West Asheville Tailgate Market) have them now!

Pair these early cukes with two other spring crops—green garlic and cilantro—to add some simple-but-satisfying dishes to your quarantine cooking repertoire. Green garlic, available from Gaining Ground Farm and B&L Organic Farm (both at North Asheville Tailgate Market; B&L also at West Asheville Tailgate Market), is simply garlic that’s picked early before it matures. It looks similar to scallions, but its shoots are flat instead of tubular. Its mild flavor is great for using raw in salads, sliced as you would a scallion. You can find cilantro from Full Sun Farm (North Asheville Tailgate Market, River Arts District Farmers Market) and Lee’s One Fortune Farm (ASAP Farmers Market, Black Mountain Tailgate Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market, River Arts District Farmers Market). 

First up, Sichuan cucumber salad: This uses a technique of smashing the cucumbers to crack open the skins, creating craggy nooks for flavor—and maybe releasing some cooped-up tension. Cut cucumbers into four-inch chunks and slice longwise. With the cut side down, lay the flat of a knife across the cucumbers and smash down lightly with your hand until the skin begins to crack and the flesh breaks down. Slice diagonally into bite-sized pieces. Put the pieces in a colander, sprinkle with salt and sugar, toss, and let drain for about 30 minutes, until the cucumbers look darker and a little shriveled. Toss with sliced green garlic, chopped cilantro, ground Sichuan peppercorns or red pepper flakes, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Add more salt and sugar if desired. 

And if you’re more in the mood for some creamy comfort, make cucumber-yogurt gazpacho. Toss sliced cucumber, green garlic, cilantro, half a jalapeño, one or two tablespoons of lime juice, a cup or so of Greek yogurt, salt, and pepper into a blender and puree until smooth and frothy. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and additional chopped cucumber and cilantro.

In other spring crop news, McConnell Farms (North Asheville Tailgate Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market) has rhubarb. Strawberries are out in greater force, and you’ll also find asparagus, pea shoots, spring onions, radishes, salad turnips, broccoli rabe, carrots, lettuces, spinach, kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, bok choy, and more. Markets also have plant starts, meat, eggs, cheese, bread, honey, beverages, ferments, and prepared foods.

For a full list of markets open throughout the region, visit asapconnections.org. Find contact information and more details about the region’s farms and farmers markets in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.