Very little can compel me to wake at sunrise on a Saturday, but the Matthews Community Farmer’s Market provides a convincing argument to set the alarm. This is the market that sells to the chefs of some of Charlotte’s finest restaurants (Roosters and Noble’s and Blue, oh my!), and it is the largest and most diverse growers-only market in our area. Everything is fresh and local: items must be grown or produced within a 50-mile radius, and the vendors are the producers themselves. No farmers here use mechanized harvesting equipment, so you’re buying fresh produce picked by hand hours before you buy it. How’s that for fresh?
You need to hit the Matthews Farmers Market early, though. I learned this lesson the hard way: weeks before, I arrived after 11 a.m. only to see empty crates and missed opportunity. This time, however, I woke early, chugged some coffee, and explored the bustling market when the opening bell rang at 7:15. I wandered, I sampled, I mingled with vendors and other customers. It was a fun and delicious start to the weekend.
On this particular morning, the market hosted a guitar performance by J.D. Wilson and a cooking demonstration from Marc Jacksina, sous chef at Andrew Blair (mmm, Andrew Blair…). The real stars of the market are, of course, the vendors. Here is a sample of some the vendors you’ll encounter at the Matthews Farmers Market:
- Bosky Acres: Attention cheese fans: you must visit this booth. Like Michelle Lamb’s many other customers, I was unable to sample without doing the “eye roll and foot stomp” – her cheeses are so delicious that customers usually can’t help but dance a little when tasting them. Do yourself a favor and try her garlic chive and chipotle chili goat cheeses, and join the “eye roll and foot stomp” party.
- Simply Sweet: Pastry Chef Christina Francine Rose bakes something for everyone: breads, cakes, sweets, bagels. My favorites: her espresso fudge squares and her roasted garlic flatbread. WOW. So much for bikini season.
- Nut Hill Farm: Jim and Nancy Mundorf offer seasonal produce and great recipe ideas. While I spoke with Jim, it was clear he has a true love of growing food that extends beyond the usual: many of his fruits come from trees he planted with his father thirty years ago. The process not only connects him to the earth, but to his family. People like Jim are a large part of the reason I love to support local food; stories like Jim’s don’t come from grocery store shelves.
- Baker’s Blessing: These hand-ground whole grain breads will make your mouth water. Maigualida Rowe offers a nice variety of breads (baguettes, foccacia, and loaves) as well as flavors (banana, zucchini, garlic, cheddar/jalapeno, to name a few). If you’ve got a mid-week craving, you can find her breads at the Home Economist as well.
- Quench! Essentials: I’m psyched to discover Quench! Aromatologist Catherine Alston sells spa bath and laundry products made without any synthetic chemicals, but instead created with herbs, flowers, berries, and barks. One big highlight is a hypo-allergenic laundry detergent that she swears will make your clothes smell like they came straight off the clothesline. Her products smell divine and are a welcome relief from all the harsh chemicals used ever-so-ironically in most cleaning products.
- Garden of the Woods: This organic farm in Indian Trail, NC offers a nice variety of veggies, herbs, and flowers. Be sure to come early: the produce is a hit and sells out in a hurry!
- Demian International Foods: Want to hop on the quail eggs bandwagon? These little eggs pack a powerful nutritional punch. Vendor Yurii Korotkov told me they are also safe to eat raw and are a healthy addition to smoothies.
Apart from supporting local food, the best part about farmer’s markets is coming home to sample new purchases (that is, whatever purchases last long enough to make it home). So forgive me if I wrap this up quickly – I’ve got Bakers Blessing baguette and Bosky Acres cheese calling my name. And after that, I’m going back to bed. After all, finishing my shopping by 8:30 on a Saturday morning calls for a congratulatory nap.
For information on the Matthews Community Farmer’s Market, including vendors, events, and recipes for seasonal produce, check out the market’s excellent website.
Regular Season, April – November: 7:15 a.m. – noon
Winter Market, December – March: 8-10 a.m (every other Saturday)
June 9-August 25: 11 a.m. -1 p.m.