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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

chestnut mushrooms from Black Trumpet Farm, photo by Camilla Calnan

Springtime brings on foraging dreams for many of us—returning to your favorite ramp patch or happening upon an elusive morel deep in the woods. But if you’re not able to wander off the path in search of these delights, farmers tailgate markets can also be great places to gather wild foods, in addition to cultivated spring crops.

We haven’t spotted ramps yet at markets this year, but this might be the week they start to show up. Look for ramps that have been sustainably harvested—i.e., with the roots left in the ground for regrowth. These wild alliums combine the sweetness of spring onions with pungent garlic flavor. You can grill them, sauté them, ferment them, turn them into pesto, and so much more. But a favorite preparation of ours remains simple ramp butter. Blanch ramps in boiling water, then plunge in ice water to cool. Squeeze out as much water as possible. Roughly chop and add to a food processor with softened butter, lemon zest, salt, and pepper to taste. You can freeze ramp butter in small batches to use all year long—on radishes, bread, steaks, and more. 

Not able to locate any ramps? Try making pesto or compound butter with garlic mustard or green garlic instead. Garlic mustard, an invasive but edible leafy green that can be foraged, is available from Bear Necessities Farm (ASAP Farmers Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market). Green garlic is simply garlic that hasn’t fully matured, and can be eaten stem and all (discard the tough ends and roots). You can get green garlic from Highgate Farm (West Asheville Tailgate Market and River Arts District Farmers Market) and Lee’s One Fortune Farm (ASAP Farmers Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market, River Arts District Farmers Market, and East Asheville Tailgate Market).

Morels are, perhaps, the ultimate forager’s prize, as these mushrooms can’t be cultivated and grow only a short time in the spring. While they are usually too scarce to make it to market, Asheville Fungi had some this past week at West Asheville Tailgate Market. You can also find Asheville Fungi at ASAP Farmers Market on Saturday. But even if morels aren’t available, there are many other types of fungi, both foraged and farmed, available at markets.

Black Trumpet Farm (North Asheville Tailgate Market and River Arts District Farmers Market) has black pearl oyster, chestnut, lions mane, and several other varieties. Black pearl oysters are dense and meaty, excellent sautéed with garlic. Chestnut mushrooms are similar to cremini or button, with a sweet, nutty flavor. Lion’s mane have a unique appearance, like shaggy fur or cauliflower. They can be thickly sliced and grilled or roasted like a steak or chop. They also make a convincing crabcake substitute. Smallholding Farm (Weaverville Tailgate Market and East Asheville Tailgate Market) has blue oyster mushrooms, which are mild and tender. Blue Ridge Chaga Connection (East Asheville Tailgate Market) specializes in medicinal mushroom types.

At markets now you’ll also find plenty of dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards, and broccoli raab; root veggies like carrots, turnips, and radishes; spring alliums like leeks and spring onions; and more. In addition to produce, market vendors have a wide variety of meat, fish, cheese, bread, rice, prepared foods, fermented products, baked treats, and beverages. There are more than 100 farmers tailgate markets throughout the Appalachian Grown region. Find them, as well as farms and other local food businesses, in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.

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