Charlotte Fresh and hubby had a great holiday weekend visiting with friends up in Hendersonville, NC. We took the opportunity to attend the NC Apple Festival which is held every Labor Day weekend (and has been for over 60 years!) and to go on a farmers’ market crawl through nearby Asheville. Basically, the weekend consisted of eating locally, eating locally and more eating locally! Hooray!
Did you know that North Carolina is the 7th largest apple-producing state in the nation? Henderson County is the largest apple-producing county our state. Up in Hendersonville, there are many varieties of apples to be found, including Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Rome Beauty, but I found that Gala was very popular.
Sliced up, Gala was crisp and sweet with caramel for dipping. Festival attendees were buying apples by the bag and by the peck. As varieties were running out, the farmers were crossing the names off their signs. We heard that none of the apples at the festival were organic. After inquiring with an agent from the local extension service, we found out that we had to trek a few blocks from the festival to the train depot where the 7th Ave. Organic Market was being held (to be fair, held for the first time in conjunction with the festival), and we found only one farmer providing apples at all – only two varieties: Gala and Golden Delicious.
Why are there not more organic apples to be found? The farmer explained that it was a financial decision for farmers in the region – organic apples have blemishes and don’t sell as well to the consumer who often wants a “perfect” apple. So, we were told that many area farmers choose to spray when needed to keep the crop looking nice. I bought some organic apples with blemishes, and they were good. But, I admit that I also had no problem eating basically any apple I could find during the weekend, organic or not. At least I was eating locally, if not organically.
Our friends love farmers’ markets just as much as we do, so we decided to do a market crawl on Saturday in Asheville. We were only able to hit three markets before we filled our coolers with too much food. The first market we tried was the big WNC Farmers Market, a state-run market just like our Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. At 8:00am, we got the impression that this was more of a wholesale market than a consumers’ market (like our Regional Market is), so we cruised through for a few minutes, got back in the car and headed to our next stop: the Asheville City Market. The Asheville City Market is a producer-only market held in two locations. We went to the one in the parking lot of the Public Works building at 161 S. Charlotte Street. At about 8:30am, it looked like this:
We had hit the local jackpot. Shrimp, chicken, lamb, pork, beef, trout, cheese, bread, baked goods, produce, pasta, tempeh, preserves and more to choose from. The only thing lacking was fresh fruit. We really went to town at this market; I couldn’t keep track of what we bought! I do recall the pasta from Rio Bertolini’s and the cheeses from Spinning Spider Creamery were fantastic. I bought some tempeh (great fried) from Smiling Hara. At the market, there was even a breakfast truck featuring local pork from Hickory Nut Gap; I had a great egg-sausage-cheese wrap.
Fortified with our breakfast and coolers almost full, we headed over to the North Asheville Tailgate Market on the UNC Asheville campus. This one had over 40 vendors and was hopping with bluegrass music when we arrived. We found some similar vendors to the Asheville City Market, but this market had a totally different vibe. We had already picked up most of our food at the last market, but did spot terrific Belgian strain oyster mushrooms, some last of the season blueberries, Polish sausage and pounds of sauce tomatoes.
I wish we had the stamina to make it to more markets that day, but I guess we’ll have to save the rest for another time. Doesn’t it make you want to head out to your local farmers’ market this weekend? I know I’ll be there. Or, take a trip up to Hendersonville or Asheville yourself and try out some of their local goods. In keeping with the apple season, look out for an upcoming post about where to find apples and how to make a great apple pie.