When it comes to shopping for the Carolina Bed & Breakfast it’s generally a division of labor. I plan the menu about one week out, taking into account the dietary restrictions of the guests at our Asheville Bed and Breakfast, the season and number of guests we are cooking for, then I check the pantry for staples and James heads out to the market while I get started prepping the next day’s breakfast, evening canapes and desserts. For the most part this works pretty well but about every two or three months I go along with him so I can see what’s new, what’s coming into season and what’s just about over.
One of my favorite trips to tag along on is his weekly trip out to the Western North Carolina Farmer’s Market. If you read this blog at all than you know that Asheville has a lot of what we call “Tailgate Markets”which show up daily in various parking lots in the city throughout the summer. Produce at these markets is sold by small farms and
businesses who drive in and set up tables and stands out of their trucks (hence the name “Tailgate”). These markets are a lot of fun, filled with all sorts of characters and tons to look at and buy. Here you can find wild mushrooms, local cheeses and meats. You can listen to a blue grass band while trying some home-baked breads. But, while the produce is lovely, it also tends to be expensive. And if you want a lot of something it’s better to head off to Brevard Road and the wholesale market run by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
This is an entirely different sort of market. It’s broken into three different sections. In one area are wholesalers who have produce from all over the United States: oranges from California, strawberries from Texas and bananas from wherever bananas come from. This is our first stop. Try as we might, it just isn’t possible to source oranges locally! JMJ Tomato Co. is our purveyor in this area. They know James and will find a good box of oranges for him almost anytime of year. And while James is inside I will take a look at their outside display. This will give me an idea of what is coming in to season. This past week, peaches and corn were sitting side by side with lovely red plums, pears and apples.
Now I love red plums. My mother always had a fruit bowl on the kitchen table and we never had to ask if it was alright to eat some. Red plums found their way into the bowl in September and I remember sitting outside in cool air and late summer sun with the juice running between my fingers after each luscious bite. But even though I would love to we won’t buy them from JMJ Orange Co. I believe in seasonality and buying locally as much as possible. So we head down to the lower section of the Market where produce from North
and South Carolina is sold. The Market here is modeled after a supermarket. The difference being you cruise the aisles in your car. When you see something you like, you stop and talk to the seller. Locally the plums aren’t ready yet. Peaches still abound and peppers make a colorful display along with pickling cucumbers and tomatoes of every sort. By next month they will be gone and a wonderful array of pumpkins, squashes and apples will replace them. Still it’s good to have seen what’s coming up so I can stop planning on peach soup and think more about apple dumplings and plum clafouti. We get some peaches, sweet potatoes and green tomatoes then head up to the Retail Area.
Retail is for the tourists for the most part but there are a few things we buy here. When it gets to February and it turns out I haven’t made enough pickles or corn salsa for the year this is the place to come. And lately we have discovered a source here for quail eggs which make great bite-sized deviled eggs for our guests. I like to look at the jams and jellies. I never know when I may see an interesting flavor combination to try.
Our last stop is at the Garden Center across the street. The leaves on our mums have been turning black. James thought they might need more water and I thought it could be a fungus. Turns out neither of us was right. Instead of needing more water, they’ve had too much. The very, very, very rainy July and August has been the problem. Hopefully we will still have flowers for the fall display but if not, there is always next year.
Driving home with the sunroof open, I felt re-invigorated and ready to get out and get cooking again. Too bad shopping at Sam’s doesn’t have the same effect!