It was a cruel winter, and so far, spring has been a nasty bitch what with all the pollen and no-see-ums, but there is a bright spot (besides longer daylight hours) and that's the beginning of farmers market season.
On Saturday, the Charleston Farmers Market returns, meaning the white tents of winter have finally melted away to reveal Marion Square. Who knew there was such a nice park under all those festivals?
The market opens at 8 a.m. At 10:30 a.m. Mayor Riley will unveil the official Farmers Market poster image.
We're happy to see Giddy Goat (cheese), Meathouse (pork), and Fresh Pickle Works (duh) come back with their artisan wares. CoCo's Mini Donuts will once again be squeezing out little Os of fried goodness (I have yet to resist their pull). You can also find fresh pasta from Rio Bertolini, baked goods from Rococo, and soups from the Messy Apron.
Most vendors return year after year, but a couple new ones always crop up. Here are some to look out for:
Olinda Olives and Olive Oil: Jeanne and John DeCamilla own an olive orchard and processing plant in California. They decided to bring their fresh olive oils to Charleston because it's such a good restaurant town. At the market, they'll have two sizes of oil: 500 mL and a gallon.
The couple has been in the olive business for ten years and recently started bottling and selling at markets and specialty shops. They'll also have three types of olives available: a pitted green olive, an oil-cured olive, and an orchard blend which includes black and greens of different sizes.
Jeanne tells us that their olives are not processed in lye, as most commercial varieties are. Instead, they are soaked in a salt solution for ten months, resulting in a healthier, more flavorful olive.
“We are both adventurous eaters and when we introduced it to our families, they loved it."
The banh mi ($7) comes on a baguette with cucumber slices, housemade pickled carrots and radishes, basil, cilantro, crunchy fried shallots, and mayo spread. For the meat, you can choose from: fried egg and Canadian bacon, five-spice seasoned pork, marinated and grilled tofu, and ginger-lemongrass grilled chicken. You can pick one of these meats as a taco filling too. The tacos ($3) have the same ingredients as the banh mi, but are wrapped up in a corn tortilla instead.
Some new farmers will be on hand with produce. Maria Baldwin from Thornhill Farm and Our Local Foods (where McCrady's gets lots of their fresh fare) will have organic vegetables and eggs (can't get enough eggs!). Michael Parker from Hickory Bluff and Berry Farm will have plump and sweet strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
Of course, the best way to find out what's new is to stroll through the market, try some samples, chat up the vendors, and enjoy the experience. It's officially one of the best in the country (Travel + Leisure, 2008) and the best outdoor event in town (City Paper, Best of Charleston 2009-2011).