In full disclosure, the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market is Charlotte Fresh’s home market – hubby and I spend a lot of time there. We’re there most Saturdays, at 7:15am on the dot and know a lot of the farmers by name. We even visit in the winter. I love this market so much that in fact, soon I will be donning one of those pink volunteer shirts and running around, setting up and helping out.
If you’ve never been to this market, you might wonder what’s so special. Matthews is one of those markets with a radius requirement. Everything sold there is grown or produced within 50 miles of the market. So, you know it’s really local. There are some certified organics, but even if farms are not certified organic, in talking with the farmers, you’ll find they raise their produce as gently and as sustainably as possible. As this market has grown over the years, we’ve seen in addition to the growing produce, more artisan breads, pastries and baked goods introduced as well as gourmet chocolates, cheeses and other gift items. Eggs continue to be a hot seller and run out within the first 45 minutes, even though there are more egg providers than there used to be. Now, you can even find quail eggs – they’re great as a treat for brunch. (Boil them for 2 min. for a firm, but not overdone quail egg.)
As far as a cultural vibe, every week you’ll find music and chef demonstrations. And even the occasional baking contest. You can learn how to make a certain dish, or learn a technique like knife skills. Everything is geared toward teaching and demystifying to make it easier for you to try something new and get used to using fresh, local ingredients. This week, the Charlotte Herb Guild demonstrated making things with herbs like lavender wands; Chef Luca Annunziata of Passion8 Bistro did a cooking demo; and Chef Anita Skogland did a wine pairing demo.
This year, the market is running a program called the “Share the Harvest Challenge” to benefit the Matthews HELP Center. Market customers and farmers are encouraged to donate fresh produce to help feed hungry local residents who turn to the Matthews HELP Center food pantry for assistance. (It’s a cause near and dear to me since I also volunteer at the Matthews HELP Center.) Every time we’re at market, we donate a box of eggs; or if the market is out of eggs, we donate some produce.
So, yes, I did go to market on Saturday. You must be wondering what I could possibly need to buy given I make so many market visits for the blog, have a CSA membership and maintain a vegetable garden. Believe me, even if I’m drowning in produce, I wouldn’t miss market day, there are so many goodies to be had:
- As you know, we picked up sour cherries from Landis Gourmet Mushrooms and made pies. (See Monday’s post.)
- We also got some feta cheese from Bosky Acres. This is the second time we’ve had the new feta and we love it on salads and pastas.
- Bought some eggs from young Alex of Alex’s Free-Range Eggs (Hinson Farms) – one box for me, one for the Share the Harvest Challenge.
- Tomatoes from Stumpf’s Gourmet Tomatoes – I use these on our Friday pizza’s, our pastas and our salads.
- Fisher Farms tomato sauce – this is a rich heirloom tomato sauce, great on our pizza.
- Muffins from Down Home Baking Co. It’s a weekly tradition, either scones or muffins.
- Two pepper plants from As Hot As Possible (jalepeno and b. crown). I also have some organic tomato plants from Windcrest Farms already growing in my garden (Chadwick Cherry, Yellow Pear, Cherokee Purple and Amish Paste). These were insurance against my own seedlings, and now I have so many pepper and tomato plants I have no place to put them!
Interested? Take a trip down to Matthews Community Farmers’ Market this weekend, and see it for yourself! Grab a coffee in the Community House and a breakfast item at one of the many fine artisan bakers’ stands. Enjoy the great community vibe. The market is open Saturdays from 7:15am-12:00pm. And beginning Wednesday, June 9, they’ll have Wednesday hours from 11:00am-1:00pm!
For a complete picture album from Saturday’s visit, see Charlotte Fresh’s photos on facebook.