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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

Is baking, grilling, and relaxing all on your agenda for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend? Get yourself some rhubarb, which has a short window of availability at farmers tailgate markets. Beyond the name of one of Asheville’s locally sourcing restaurants, rhubarb is a prized ingredient in many springtime desserts, beverages, and toppings. We’ve seen it from McConnell Farms (North and West Asheville Tailgate Markets) and Myseanica Family Farm (ASAP and Enka-Candler markets). 

This pink and green stalk is technically a vegetable, but its culinary uses are more fruit-like. The uncooked flavor is extremely tart, so it’s rarely eaten raw. Mellowed with sugar or other sweetener, however, rhubarb shines. Strawberries, widely available from many farms right now, are the classic complement. You could add them to any of our suggestions below, or purchase The Hop’s strawberry ice cream, made from Lee’s One Fortune Farm berries, to eat alongside your rhubarb creations. The Lees have strawberry ice cream for sale at the ASAP, Black Mountain, West Asheville, River Arts District, and East Asheville markets. 

For a simple approach, you can’t go wrong with a rhubarb crisp. To start, trim and cut the rhubarb stalks into half-inch pieces. You want five or six cups, from about two-and-a-half pounds of rhubarb. Toss in a large bowl with three tablespoons of flour and a half cup to a full cup of sugar, depending on your preference for tart versus sweet. You could add a squeeze of orange juice and little zest, if you like. Spread the rhubarb mixture in a buttered baking dish. In the bowl of the food processor, combine a cup of oats, half a cup of flour, half a cup of brown sugar, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, and one stick of cold butter, cut into pieces. Pulse for about 30 seconds, until the mixture comes together in pea-sized clumps. Sprinkle the topping over the rhubarb. Bake in a 400-degree oven until golden and bubbling, about 35 to 45 minutes. 

Are you more of a griller than a baker? Rhubarb chutney is great spooned onto pork chops or other grilled local meat. In a heavy pot, combine half a cup of sugar and one-fourth cup cider vinegar and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Add three cups of rhubarb (about a pound), cut into half-inch pieces, along with half a cup of chopped red onion, a tablespoon each of diced fresh ginger and garlic, half a teaspoon each of cumin and cinnamon, and a pinch of cloves and crushed red pepper. Simmer for about five minutes, until rhubarb is tender and the mixture thickens slightly. Let cool before serving.

Rather maximize your holiday weekend relaxing? Rhubarb spritzer is just the ticket. Prepare a batch of rhubarb syrup and keep it in the fridge all weekend to mix as needed with sparkling water or soda over ice. Put your feet up and sip. For rhubarb syrup, combine four cups rhubarb, one cup water, and one cup sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean jar and cool. 

In addition to rhubarb and strawberries, markets now have asparagus, spring alliums like garlic scapes, spring onions, and leeks, snow and snap peas, radishes, turnips, mushrooms, greens, and much more. Markets also offer an abundance of farm-fresh eggs, meats, fish, bread, cheese, pastries, fermented products, drinks, and prepared foods. 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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