Saturday, August 23, 2014

Market Square Market Rocks!

Anyone in the Knoxville area who has not experienced the Saturday morning farmer's market at Market Square has missed one of the premier markets in the country. In fact, we ranked #20 out of a list of 101 top farmer's markets in the U.S., compiled by The Daily Meal. You can check out the complete list here. Clarksville and Memphis also made the list.

After I left the radio studio this morning I headed over to Market Square. Reasons for the high ranking became immediately apparent. For one thing, fresh produce and other food products, like honey, grass fed meats, and pepper sauces, dominate the offerings from vendors. Additional vendors selling hand-crafted items, such as soaps, woodcarvings, and pottery out-numbered those hawking retail merchandise and trinkets. This balance is a decided advantage for any market hoping to attract people serious about local food.

And what an abundance of local food we have! I lost track of the number of tomato varieties, but this being August everything from tiny currant tomatoes the size of a big blueberry to giant slicers and everything in between were on offer. Cherokee Purple is now so ubiquitous it is almost unfashionable, but those in the know keep buying it for taste alone. Beautiful eggplants in an array of colors, squash in assorted shapes, sizes and colors, and non-GMO sweet corn contributed to the bounty.

One of my favorite booths is operated by Jim Smith of Rushy Springs Farm in Talbot, TN. Jim specializes in growing chili peppers, and when I say specialize, I don't mean he grows one or two kinds really well. He grows dozens of different kinds and turns them into powders, spice mixes and salt-brine-fermented hot sauces that are just terrific. He told me the selection will only get better as we move later into the season.

Among the craftspeople, Dancing Edge Earthworks caught my eye. The selection of hypertufa pots should satisfy the most demanding gardener.

The find of the day could have been either the foraged wild yellow chanterelle mushrooms or the speckled butter beans, still in their tough-skinned pods. I opted for the butter beans, as the chanterelles will still be around next week. (I hope.)

Learn more about the Market Square Farmer's Market here. Bon appetit!

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