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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.

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broccoli

It’s opening week for many of the farmers tailgate markets in Asheville and Buncombe County! Find North Asheville Tailgate Market Saturday morning back at UNC Asheville; West Asheville Tailgate Market returns to Haywood Rd. on Tuesday; Weaverville Tailgate Market kicks off its new location at Gotta Have It Antiques on Wednesday; and East Asheville Tailgate Market reopens on Tunnel Rd. on Friday. ASAP Farmers Market and River Arts District Farmers Market continue their seasons on Saturday and Wednesday, respectively. 

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As a new flock of hens starts to lay, their first eggs are smaller, with firmer whites and more deeply colored yolks, than regular eggs. Not to be dismissed, these pullet eggs boast a richer flavor and creamier texture. For the next few weeks, these will be the only eggs available from Dry Ridge Farm at the ASAP Farmers Market. It’s a great chance to try something truly unique to farmers markets, as grocery stores stick to uniform, regulation sizes.

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If ever there was a year to channel all of your romantic energy into cooking a fancy meal at home, this is it. Get what you need on Saturday at ASAP Farmers Market or, if you want to celebrate on a different day or make a series of Valentine’s week meals, shop at River Arts District Farmers Market on Wednesday. Of course, the ideal menu is totally subjective, so adapt as you want, but here’s our take on a classic Valentine’s Day market dinner. 

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Radishes are widely available at winter farmers markets, but can often be overlooked as a raw salad component, taco condiment, or pop of color on a crudité spread. Those uses are all great, of course, but these cruciferous veggies are also fantastic cooked. Here are some ideas to take advantage of a variety of radishes available at markets now.

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collards and kale

With regular snow dustings, we’re settling into soup season—a great time for farmers tailgate market meals. With just a few local ingredients, you can create something warm and nourishing to carry you through chilly afternoons. Add some crusty bread and a salad green mix to make a full family-sized meal.

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Bundle up! With pandemic precaution still critical, winter farmers tailgate markets are mostly staying outdoors (or partially indoors with ample airflow). Though there are fewer of these markets, you can still find a solid mix of seasonal fruits and veggies. Expect to see plenty of storage crops, like sweet potatoes, potatoes, apples, winter squash, turnips, beets, and carrots. Some farms make use of greenhouses or high tunnels to continue producing salad mixes, lettuces, and dark, leafy greens throughout the colder months. Meats, eggs, cheeses, bread, and artisan foods are also widely available. 

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gingerbread

This week is your last opportunity to shop at farmers tailgate markets in 2020. You have plenty of chances. On Saturday, visit ASAP Farmers Market (9 a.m. to noon) or North Asheville Tailgate Market’s Holiday Bazaar (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.). On Tuesday, West Asheville Tailgate Market runs 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. And on Wednesday, you can shop at Weaverville Tailgate Market (2 to 5 p.m.). North, West, and Weaverville will then close for the season. ASAP Farmers Market will resume at A-B Tech on Jan. 9 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and River Arts District Farmers Market will return to Pleb Urban Winery Jan. 6. 

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radicchio

Maybe you’re still happily eating leftover pumpkin pie for every meal (no judgement). But chances are you need to restock your fridge to make a few lighter, healthier meals this week—say, salad. Fall greens are abundant at farmers markets right now, so there’s no need for these meals to be boring!

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red and gold beets

If you’ve been hunkered down all week wondering if or when our country would erupt into violence, heading out to a farmers tailgate market might be the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. First of all, markets are outdoor environments and all that fresh air and sunlight can help clear your head. Second, even in the age of coronavirus and a divisive election, markets offer community and fellowship. Finally, and most obviously, shopping at market literally nourishes yourself and your family. 

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