Just over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge from Charleston, SC, is the town of Mount Pleasant, a modern community exploding with growth but still known for its traditions of shrimping and sweetgrass basketmaking. Although there are many farmers markets in the Charleston area, as a dedicated home cook, my favorite is the Town of Mount Pleasant Farmers Market. It takes place each Tuesday from 3:30-7:30 p.m. on the grounds of Moultie Middle School, and although the August heat has taken hold in the Lowcountry, the market is still full of people who, other than commenting on the heat, don’t seem in a rush to escape it.
Why is it my favorite? It’s the perfect combo of accessibility, size, and variety. I routinely buy shrimp here, I get Big Daddy’s Pork Rinds and sneak one (or two) on the car ride home, I buy eggs from Wishbone Heritage Farms, and this time of year, I’m obsessed with peaches.
In fact, the peach is the belle of the farmers’ market ball at the moment. Vendors are competitively priced, and you’ll be offered a peach slice more than once if you show any interest. Although Georgia is known for peaches, South Carolina actually produces more, but there are only a couple of dedicated peach farm vendors here. Many more sell South Carolina peaches, so make sure and take note if buying direct from the farmer is your goal.
Quality of product is very high here, and in addition to beautiful local veggies and meat, you will find a wide range of artisanal food products, from pasta to grapefruit elderflower soda to freshly fried tortilla chips and salsa.
Stephanie Burt has been writing about food, art and travel long enough to have a one-up story for most cocktail parties. And she talks a lot, so don’t get her started.
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It is the height of peach season in the South, and you have to sell them, buy them, and eat them before they spoil. Freestone varieties are the most desirable, and many customers were in line to purchase in bulk for freezing and preserving.
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Many of the vendors have figured out that customer convenience increases sales. Therefore, you'll often find pre-shelled butter beans or already-shucked corn, such as this Silver Queen.
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King of Pops carts are a Lowcountry fixture at many a market, and the rainbow umbrella "marks the spot." This local company now has branches in Atlanta, Charlotte, and beyond, but they've never wavered from their fresh approach to the paleta, with flavors ranging from Banana Puddin' to Blackberry Mojito.
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Coming hungry to the market is the way to go, because samples are everywhere. Porzio's fresh, local pizza sauce was one of the samples, but on this day, they were also handing out little pieces of bread smeared with pungent fresh pesto.
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Charleston Spice Company has some hard-to-locate spices and herb blends, including grains of paradise and aliño, two of my routine purchases from this booth. They proudly display the Lowcountry Local First symbol. The local, non-profit business-advocate organization's message is "your buying choices have power." They provide many arms of support for small business success.
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Boiled peanuts are an iconic Southern snack purchased by the bag. The recipe starts with green peanuts and ends up with a soft and salty snack. Get a bottle Coke and drop a few in for an added level of authenticity and flavor.
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Charleston Bay Gourmet has classic pulled pork barbecue, squash casserole, baked beans, and much more, sold by the portion or by the pound.
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You can eat dinner at the market or take it home to go.
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Big Daddy Pork Skins are fried up in a big pot on-site. Fresh is essential for a pork skin or "rind." Nothing's worse than a stale pork rind, and Big Daddy's come in a big bag for $6.
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Fresh from the oil, pork skins drain on an industrial-size sheet pan. The name says it all--they are fried pork skin with a dusting of seasoning--and aficionados of the simple "Southern chip" eat them with a creamy dip, serve them with a sandwich or a beer, or just simply snack on the go.