Summer may be fading, but healthy and fresh food options are bountiful at our local farmers markets. We talked to the managers of the county’s four markets, who told us what to expect over the next few months and offered some of their favorite recipes and foods.
CHATHAM MILLS FARMERS MARKET
With more than 20 vendors, the Chatham Mills Farmers Market runs on Saturday mornings from April to January, managed by Cheryl McNeill.
“In the late summer you can always rely on peppers, eggplants and okra. Toward fall, the crop will be sweet potatoes. In September, you get the first fall produce, like radishes, salad mix and baby greens. Red Roots Farm specializes in peppers – hot peppers and grilling peppers, which are usually sweet.”
ROASTED BELL PEPPERS WITH EGGPLANT
- 2 medium bell peppers, halved lengthwise, cored and seeded
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
- Two 8-oz. Japanese eggplants, trimmed and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
- 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
- One 26-oz. jar tomato-basil sauce
- 20 pitted medium black olives, chopped
- 20 pitted medium green olives, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and drained
- 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. plain breadcrumbs
- 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Peppers: Arrange the peppers cut side up in a small, oiled baking dish or on a sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until the peppers are tender, but still hold their shape.
Filling: Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch skillet. Add eggplant in batches, stirring frequently, until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain on paper towels; season with salt. Combine eggplant, tomato-basil sauce, olives, capers, salt and pepper in skillet. Simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.
Topping: In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Spoon the filling into the peppers, and sprinkle on the topping. Drizzle with oil, and then broil for 2 to 3 minutes until the crust turns golden.
FEARRINGTON FARMERS MARKET
Fearrington Farmers Market has more than three dozen vendors and is open Tuesdays from April to November. Manager Eddie Kallam has managed the market for a decade. His daughter CC is the assistant manager. As fall arrives, Eddie looks for ripe tomatoes for his favorite simple sandwich and late-summer fruits.
EDDIE’S SIMPLE TOMATO SANDWICH
“Choose your favorite sliced bread, with your favorite mayo slathered on both pieces of bread, and pick your favorite tomato (for me, Cherokee Purple) – slice, and place in between with freshly ground black pepper – bon appetit!”
Tomatoes from Eco Farm, Perry-winkle Farm, Cane Creek Farm, Cool Springs Farms, Gary Thomas Farms or Good Rhythm Farm.)
FRESH FRUIT BOWL: Strawberries from Sweet Flowers and Fruits, Harrington Farm, Cane Creek Farm or Gary Thomas Farms; peaches from Kalawi Farm; and blueberries from Olde Carthage Farm
PITTSBORO FARMERS MARKET
Mackenzie Withington has managed Pittsboro Farmers Market for close to a decade. She and her husband, Tucker, run Lilly Den Farm in Goldston, selling both produce and meat – including duck and goose – at the market. The market has about 20 vendors and runs on Thursdays year-round from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“Fall is the perfect time for all your leafy greens, salads, edible pumpkins, the non-summer squash – like butternut squash – [and] also late fruits like apples,” Mackenzie says. “[Lilly Den] does turkeys in the fall, September and October, straight through the New Year until we run out. We also do duck and goose in the fall. They all hatch [mid-summer], and we raise them until they’re big enough to process. We usually run out come Christmas.”
EASY DUCK CONFIT
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 clove garlic, crushed*
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme*
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 to 2 gallons cold water
- 1 Lilly Den Farm fresh duck* Salt to taste
*available at Pittsboro Farmers Market in the fall
Brine: boil 1⁄2 gallon of water; add kosher salt and brown sugar with rest of water, plus garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Refrigerate and soak duck for 12- 24 hours.
Remove duck, pat dry and let sit 15 minutes.
Poke holes in skin to allow fat to pool while cooking. Add generous table salt.
Place the duck legs skin side up in a greased, high-sided baking dish. Do not overlap.
Heat at 285 degrees for 1 1⁄2 to 2 hours.
Duck should be submerged in its own fat with browning skin. Increase heat to 375 for 15 more minutes or until crispy.
Remove and let sit 15 minutes. Strain duck fat with cheesecloth (can be reused for 6 months if refrigerated).
SILER CITY FARMERS MARKET
Siler City’s weekly market is retooling and looking for vendors, says Jackie Adams, who owns the Oasis Fresh Market and Deli on South Chatham Avenue. For now, she keeps produce on hand from a number of Chatham growers.
“We’ll have peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe [this fall]. Even some of our berries – strawberries, blueberries – we’ll bring them in fresh for a week or two [and] then put them in the freezer so we have them year-round.”
Inspired by the Elderberry Festival with Norm’s Farms on Sept. 21, Jackie recommends using elder flowers to make a winter squash soup.
WINTER SQUASH, GINGER AND ELDERFLOWER SOUP
- 1 stick butter
- 1⁄2 cup shallots, minced
- 1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, nely diced
- 4 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
- 1⁄4 cup elder ower ginger syrup
- Pea shoots (optional)
Melt butter in a large pot over low heat. Add shallots, parsnip, celery and butternut squash. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add the stock. Simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes until vegetables are tender. Blend until smooth and return to pot. Add salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, grated ginger and elder ower ginger syrup as desired. Garnish with parsley or fresh pea shoots.
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Chatham Magazine is a bi-monthly publication that seeks to capture the beauty, charm and unique character within Chatham County.
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