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Ready, set, go! Head to the market for spring's bounty: Ruth Gonzalez gets us motivated to shake off winter's staples and move into the spring swing.

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Everybody loves to eat. It's a pleasure you can count on daily. My taste buds are salivating just thinking about this new growing season. After all, things are at their ultimate flavor peak when they're in season. So, let's get into the spring swing and enjoy!

In WNC, there are luckily three ways to enjoy the fruits of the land: plant your own garden, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or start factoring tailgate and farmers' market visits into your weekly schedule. Or, do all three. Pick up your CSA subscription once weekly, visit a couple of different tailgate markets throughout the week, and have a garden plot in your backyard!

If planting in your backyard, plan out your garden thinking in terms of what you and your family love to eat and staples you can store through fall and winter; that way, you're not just waiting for next spring to get into the swing of things. Realistically determine how much time and space you have. People don't raise cattle in downtown Asheville, but I have heard of chickens in the neighborhood. Visit your local garden center or tailgate market for bedding plants, or plant your own from seed. Even a pot of parsley on your apartment balcony is a start.

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With a CSA, the farmer and an individual agree to support each other during the growing season. Usually the individual/family pays a certain fee up front to receive a weekly allotment of scrumptiously seasonal food from the farmer. Through your CSA box, you will experience the tempo and bounty of each food as it becomes available. Buttery new potatoes and rich red beets will accompany your salad greens and broccoli. The spring chickens start laying and voila! You've got eggs so flavorful you can't believe you would even consider buying them at the grocery store.

Or, let your local tailgate or farmers' market act as your own private backyard garden. These markets offer an incredible diversity of seasonal foods, seriously flesh and rushed to town at daybreak just for you to take home and fix for supper. At the market, you get to know the farmers and the bakers personally, and they get to know you, too. It's the real deal, not a pretend marketing scheme. You know that Frank will have your favorite heirloom lettuce, Jean will have homemade almond pound cakes for that potluck emergency, and Annie's big yellow sunflowers will cheer you up during the workweek.

Tailgate markets start opening this month, with promises of salad ftxings galore: lettuces, mesclun mixes, arugula, spinach, radishes, peas and green onions, all zinging with the spring vitality we crave after a winter of slim pickings. Throw in some brick-oven bread, a little goat cheese, plus a homemade pastry, and you just went gourmet without even trying. Local flee-range eggs, grass-fed meat and wild-caught seafood are also available at your back door from people you know and trust. We are living in paradise!

This spring, take matters into your own hands and eat local if you haven't before. Ban the tennis-ball tomato from your life. Or, if you're already a buy local convert, work to stay motivated to buy and eat more this spring than last. Explore the luxury of delicate, complex flavors made authentic by the good rich earth of your own neighborhood. And just enjoy that daily pleasure ... eating!

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For a listing of local CSA's and tailgate and farmers' markets, turn to page 3Z pick up a free cop), of the ASAP Local Food Guide, or visit www.appalachiangrown.org.

Ruth Gonzalez is a former market farmer, backyard gardener, and founding member of the local Tailgate Market Fan Club. Join the Club at tailgatemarketfanclub@yahoo.com.
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Title Annotation:buy local
Author:Gonzalez, Ruth
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Apr 1, 2008
Words:625
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