In Asheville, tailgate events shouldn’t be confused with the Texas tailgates that precede Friday night football games. Both have food in common – but that’s where the similarities end. Tailgating here is all about the freshest, organic food and local products coming to market. Area farmers and day vendors show up with a full range of local, sustainably produced veggies, fruits, herbs, pastas, meats, eggs, cheeses, breads, plants, prepared foods and crafts. These are the ultimate Farmer’s Markets and typically they show up April-September in a variety of locations around Asheville. One of the largest is right downtown, where on Saturday mornings the vendors take over an entire city block – yes, they shut down an entire street – and fill it with the everything from farm- fresh eggs to hand-crafted probiotic elixirs. The smell of fresh-brewed coffee and sweet treats entice you to come closer as you approach Market street which is lined with white tents. There appears to be everything from the smallest herb seedlings to mid-sized trees; cherries to tomatoes; soap to salsa. In some cases you can arrange to have items delivered to your home on a regular basis, but in my opinion, half the fun is exploring what’s available any given day and personally selecting just what you need at that moment. On my visit, there was also live music at the downtown tailgate.
So which items caught my eye? Too many to name, but here are a couple favorites. The rhubarb was absolutely spectacular, and I love rhubarb pie, but alas I had to pass because I do not actually have any experience cooking with it – maybe another time. My mom suggests that cooking tips and/or recipes would be a great addition to this market.
I could not resist buying the deep red, luscious strawberries, which led to the purchase of a hand-made artisan berry bowl. My mother taught me that presentation is everything. Served these beauties up au naturel (no sugar needed) over vanilla bean ice cream. Perfection!
Everywhere you go in Asheville, you’ll see signs encouraging you to “Buy Local”. By offering tailgates nearly everyday of the week at varying times and locations during the peak growing season, it would seem to be very easy for the average person to do just that. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project(ASAP) has a mission to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters, and build healthy communities through connections to local food in this region. Volunteers for ASAP were at the tailgate promoting their website and mission. As a newbie to the area, I had some difficulty finding the tailgate without an exact address and when I was approached by an ASAP volunteer on how they could improve their website – well I felt obligated to give them my opinions. I am delighted to say that they listened and incorporated some of my suggestions. I find their 2017 Tailgate Market list very helpful, it has 14 centrally located tailgates and even more for areas NSEW of the city. I can’t wait for my next tailgate experience.