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Earlier starts and new vendors at area farmers markets 

This weekend, many markets in the Triangle are starting earlier as their spring/ summer hours kick in.

The Carrboro Farmers' Market (301 W. Main St., www.carrborofarmersmarket.com) kicks off earliest at 7 a.m on Saturday. And at 8 a.m., several other markets open, including Durham (501 Foster St., www.durhamfarmersmarket.com); South Estes (201 S. Estes Drive, Chapel Hill, www.southestesfarmersmarket.com); Hillsborough (Home Depot parking lot, 625 Hampton Point Blvd., at N.C. 86 and I-85, hillsboroughfarmersmarket.org); Western Wake (1225 Morrisville-Carpenter Road, Cary, www.westernwakefarmersmarket.org); and Downtown Cary (744 E. Chatham St., caryfarmersmarket.com).

With a new season come new vendors. In Carrboro, Saturdays will find Big Spoon, a local nut butter producer, and Melina's Italian Kitchen, which will feature homemade sauces and pastas from locally sourced ingredients. And when Wednesday markets gear up again on April 13 (3:30–6:30 p.m.), look for several new stands: Ecology, a purveyor of locally grown and foraged mushrooms; Porcino, an artisan pasta maker; and Rolling Hills Farm, which will feature rabbits, capons, pheasants and pasture-raised chickens.

To see some of the market farms in action, purchase tickets now to attend the 16th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour (www.carolinafarmstewards.org) on April 16 and 17. The tour includes 40 farms in Alamance, Chatham, Durham, Orange and Person counties. Cheryl Rettie, who works in membership services with Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, which organizes the event, suggests that folks "bring a cooler. A lot of farms will be selling their produce."

To purchase tickets in advance—$25 per carload—visit Carolina Farm Stewardship Association's website, or visit the Durham Farmers Market, Chatham Market, Harmony Farms or any Weaver Street Market location. Tickets are also available the day of the tour at participating farms: $30 purchases car access to all stops, while $10 grants entrance to one farm.

Not sure what to do with the produce you pick up at a market or tour stop? Author Sheri Castle presents 250 answers in her new book, The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers' Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes, scheduled for release on April 30. Grab the book and Castle's signature early at a number of launch events: 7 p.m. on April 4 at Parker & Otis (112 S. Duke St., Durham, 683-3200, parkerandotis.com); 7 p.m. on April 7 at Flyleaf Books (752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, 942-7373, www.flyleafbooks.com); and 7 p.m. on April 21 at the Regulator Bookshop (720 Ninth St., Durham, 286-2700, www.regulatorbookshop.com). Castle, who is also a cooking teacher, assures that the book has something for everyone, including "lots of tips and hints." For more information, visit www.shericastle.com.

Do you have a food happening or restaurant news? Email us at food@indyweek.com.

  • Plus: 16th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour; Sheri Castle's The New Southern Garden Cookbook

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