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  • Writer's pictureMari Stuart

Holiday Cooking with Local and Seasonal Foods

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

And now for the “Eatin’” part of Gardens of Eatin’…

In her memoir on a year of eating locally, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver puzzles over why Americans gladly haul home pumpkins in October as doorstep decorations, but when actually making pumpkin soup or pie around the holidays, they buy the 15 oz. can from the supermarket. It’s almost as if we’ve forgotten that pumpkin is, well, edible – “an actual, healthy, native North American vegetable, non-shrink wrapped, locally grown, and in season, sitting in state on everybody’s porch.”

As we enter into the fullness of late fall, with its holidays and feasts, so many of our most beloved food ingredients are on our doorsteps – if not quite as literally as the pumpkin. The farms, gardens and forests of Southern Appalachia are still producing bountiful edibles. Explore the farmers’ markets, farm stands and your own veggie patch and mushroom logs if you have them, and let what’s available there determine the menu. Here are some of the foods that are local and seasonal now:

  • apples

  • all root vegetables: carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes, storage potatoes

  • squashes and pumpkins (note that Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins tend not to be the most flavorful; for cookng, there are a myriad of other, smaller and more interesting pumpkin varieties)

  • greens – from kale and chard to collard greens, cabbages, broccoli raab, bok choy, and mixed salad greens

  • mushrooms

  • chestnuts and other nuts – traditional foods in our region! The Nutty Buddy Collective is selling cold-pressed hickory and acorn oil and acorn flour at farmers' markets in Asheville.

  • and of course, turkeys from your local farm (here's a locally produced vegetarian alternative)

And what will you make with this local, seasonal bounty? Here are 4 recipes for the holiday table that incorporate local, seasonal ingredients.

Marinated kale salad

1 lemon (zest and 3 tbsp of juice)

2 tbsp honey

1⁄4 c olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch of kale (thinly sliced into ribbons)

toasted sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds

Place zest and juice in a bowl. Whisk in honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. Dress greens and let sit for 2 hours. Top with toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart


1 cup flour 1 stick cold butter cut into pieces 1 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons cold water

Sift together the flour and the salt. Cut the chilled butter into small cubes and work half of it in the flour lightly using your fingertips or a pastry blender, until it has the consistency of corn meal. Work in the other half. Sprinkle the dough with the ice water, mixing, until it holds together. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic, and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.


a drizzle of olive oil 1 large yellow onion, sliced

1 lb of mushrooms, sliced 3 sprigs of thyme ½ cup cream 2 eggs 4 oz. goat cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Caramelize onions in a saucepan with olive oil until rich golden brown (about 15-20 minutes). Add sliced mushrooms along with the leaves from thyme. Cook covered over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Whisk together the eggs and cream in a small bowl. Roll your dough and press it into the tart pan.

Assemble the tart: spread the mushroom mixture evenly onto the dough. Add the egg mixture, followed by rounds of goat cheese. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and the center of the tart is firm.

Caramelized baked sweet potatoes with apples

4 lbs sweet potatoes

½ cup heavy cream

½ stick unsalted butter

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tsp nutmeg

½ tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp unsalted butter

3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced

3 tbsp brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake potatoes for about an hour until cooked. Peel and puree. Add the cream, butter, sugar, and spices and mix until combined. Transfer into a baking dish.

Melt the butter on a pan and add the sliced apples. Cook until slightly browned, then pour on top of the sweet potato mix and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake in 375 F for 20-30 minutes.

Pumpkin pie

We started with pumpkins and we'll end, naturally, with pumpkins.

Why not give your pumpkin pie this year a local spin and make it with actual puréed pie pumpkin? But whichever way you make it, this is sure to be everyone's favorite dessert at the holiday table. The Internet is loaded with recipes for every possible variation; this year, I am going to try this dairy-free pumpkin pie to accommodate a dinner guest with a dietary restriction.

Enjoy this time of gathering with loved ones and celebrating the bounty of another fall harvest!

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