Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

Boxes of cherry tomatoes at a farmers market.
Anne Preble

Cherries have a blink-and-you-miss-it season in Western North Carolina, but that moment is now!

If you don’t eat all the cherries you find at farmers markets, you can preserve their flavors a bit longer by making vinaigrette to zip up your salads or syrup to add some zing to icy drinks. You can also freeze cherries and have them ready to add to smoothies. Look for cherries from Bright Branch Farms (East Asheville Tailgate Market), McConnell Farms (North Asheville Tailgate Market), and Lyda and Sons Orchard (Weaverville Tailgate Market).

Cherry vinaigrette will make even the simplest salad greens sing—and it goes particularly well with roasted beets, arugula, and any type of cheese. Remove the stems and pits from one cup of fresh cherries. Place cherries in a blender or food processor with two tablespoons balsamic vinegar, one-third cup olive oil, one tablespoon honey, half a teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Blend until smooth. Taste your vinaigrette. Add more honey if you’d like it to be sweeter or adjust the salt and pepper to taste. You can also blend in herbs, like basil or cilantro. You can use sweet or sour cherries in this recipe and adjust the sweetener to your liking.

Cherry and lime are a classic combination in this simple syrup. Combine one cup of water, one cup of sugar, and the zest from one lime in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil for about one minute, until the sugar dissolves. Take off the heat and add half a cup of pitted cherries. Let the syrup steep for 20 minutes. Strain out the solids and pour into a glass jar. The syrup will store in the fridge for up to three weeks. Stir two tablespoons of syrup into eight ounces of club soda for homemade cherry-lime soda, or use the syrup to sweeten a glass of iced tea.

To freeze cherries, remove the stems and pits. Spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 24 hours. Once the cherries are completely frozen, you can transfer them to freezer safe bags or containers. Store them in the freezer for up to six months.

Also spotted at markets in recent weeks: strawberries, cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini, fennel, garlic scapes, spring onions, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, kale, chard, mushrooms, and much more. Markets offer an abundance of farm-fresh eggs and meats, including chicken, pork, beef, and lamb. You can also get bread, cheese, pastries, fermented products, drinks, and prepared foods. Find more details about farms and markets throughout the region, including hours and location, in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.

Written by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.