by David Cecelski
Last week I explored the Carolina Beach Farmers Market while I was visiting my brother and his family. It’s held every Saturday in the summertime from 8 am to 1 pm next to the town pond just south of the boardwalk, and it marks an interesting new trend in the state’s farmers markets: bringing local produce and other farm goods to where beach-goers can find them.
Several farmers from southeastern NC communities well inland had brought their goods to Carolina Beach. Ronnie Hanchey and his family came from their farm on NC 41 in Wallace, in Duplin County. The folks at Edens Produce traveled all the way from Scott’s Hill, on US 17 in Pender County. And Wayne Long and his family, who have a 40-acre farm in Shallotte, in Brunswick County, had also sent a wagonload of produce.
All the farmers had brought the best of their mid-summer harvest to Carolina Beach. They had bins full of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, sweet corn, peppers, potatoes, squash, cantaloupes, and watermelons.
The Veggie Wagon had a nice produce stand at the market, too. The Veggie Wagon’s proprietors have a delivery service that brings farm fresh produce and other local foods to people’s homes, connecting eastern NC farmers with people in Wilmington, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach.
They also have a little store that’s just up the road from the farmers market. It’s one of my brother’s favorite shops in Carolina Beach. It’s a tiny little place, but full of fresh produce, regional cheeses, and local organic products that I’ve rarely seen in a beach community.
At the market, in addition to lots of fresh produce, the couple that runs the Veggie Wagon also sold homemade mozzarella balls, three kinds of pimiento cheese spread, and a blackened tuna salad.
I also found some other interesting looking specialty foods. Two regional wineries had booths at the market, and a local bakery was selling Cape Fear Rum Cakes.
Two Greek booths caught my eye, too. Alexander Fouros, a New York City chef who retired to Wilmington with his wife, was expounding excitedly on the glories of Greek cooking. Shirtless in the 95-degree heat, he was frying his handmade Greek sausage and Spanish chorizo on a little grill.
“His father was Greek,” his wife told me, “and his mother was Spanish.” They were selling several other handmade Greek foods, too, including spanakopita, smoked fish, and herb spreads.
A young woman, Thea Matia, was selling Greek pastries in the booth next to them. A native of Winston-Salem, Ms. Matia told me that she had been seeking a way to make a little extra money and eventually thought of her Greek grandmother’s recipes that she had loved as a child. She had an old photograph of her grandmother on her table at the farmers market.
She said that her aunt, who inherited her grandmother’s recipes and gift for cooking, taught her how to make the pastries.
I bought a little box of baklava and delicate, orange-flavored cookies called koulorakia. I took them home to my brother’s family and everybody loved them. We all agreed that they were worth a trip to the farmers market by themselves.