The Importance of Sunlight

by Sharon Dent

Having a successful, high-producing vegetable garden is dependent on locating it at the best angle in relation to the sun. The ideal spot for a year-round garden is a sunny, south-facing, gently sloping space with deep, rich, loamy soil, protected from strong winds, and with a good, close-by water source.

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Most vegetable plants need eight hours of full sun. Rarely is this ideal situation possible, but we are fortunate to have good levels of sunlight in the Hot Springs area. Our rocky, clay soil, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. It needs so much amendment that most local gardeners resort to raised beds and containers and such.

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Sun requirements vary by plant type by roughly four hours. Fruiting plants such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash need the most light — eight hours and more. Root crops like potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, radishes, beets and turnips can get by with five to six hours of sunlight. Leafy plants like lettuce, kale and spinach, can make it with only four to five hours. The leafy vegetables can thrive with more than five hours of sun if the area is shady or slightly filtered. That is true of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, garlic, onions, and green peas.

March to September has the most sun and the longest days. That is why most of our produce is grown during this period. October to February has the shortest days, and the sun tracks lower in the sky. This latter fact has an important impact on the selection of a garden site, particularly if there will be a winter garden.

It is important to be cautious about the impact of tall trees, as they block the sun’s path even in winter. That is true of buildings and other structures too.

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When the day length drops to less than ten hours, most growth grinds to a halt. If a winter garden is to be successful, planting should be done between August and mid-September so that plants will mature by early December. To repeat, plants need to be mature when the days have less than ten hours of sunlight. Some plants like cabbage will be fine overwintering where they are planted. The same goes for turnips allowing for harvesting throughout the winter.

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For people who want to harvest and eat from their gardens almost all year round, cool weather plants can be planted again in early spring, February and March. Examples are snap and sugar peas, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

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Although my yard has more shade than is optimal for vegetable gardening, I still manage to overcome some of the obstacles. I garden in large pots that can be placed on the front patio for good sun. I use my small backyard garden for crops that can get along on five to six hours of sun, and I mix vegetables like okra in sunny flower beds. I am conflicted because I need to cut down four or five trees to get more sunlight on the garden plot in the backyard. If I cut the trees down, it would have an adverse effect on my shade garden in the nearby woods, though. Consequently, the trees will stay. Life is full of compromises, so I live with an attractive, but less than optimal producing vegetable garden.

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Delicata Squash

by Louise Lee

Les Houston brought a mystery squash to the July Garden to Table roundtable. It grew volunteer on his property, and he was curious to know what it was. I photographed it and took it to the Hot Springs Farmers Market three Saturdays in a row until I caught up with Lee from Ouachita River Valley Farms. Lee always has a large variety of squash, and I was almost certain I’d seen this particular variety at his booth. Sure enough, he told me immediately what it was, and that he used to grow it but stopped because of its low yield.

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Delicata, also called sweet potato squash, peanut squash or Bohemian squash, is a heirloom squash that was almost lost during the Great Depression because of it’s low yield. A decade ago, scientists at Cornell University created a more compact, disease-resistant bush variety, and now this especially flavorful squash is making a comeback.

It’s smaller than most winter squash, and it’s easier to work with because of its thin skin that can be removed with a vegetable peeler. Technically, delicata is a summer squash (Cucurbita pepo), but it is hard-fleshed like a winter squash. It has a sweet rich flavor that some say is better than butternut.

Sharon Dent found seeds at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

Delicata Honey Boat seeds

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Savory Fare at the Superior Bathhouse

by Julia Milano

All aficionados of a good cold beer welcomed the news that a craft beer tasting room and microbrewery would open in Hot Springs on Historic Bathhouse Row. Who knew that along with refreshing and thoughtful libations, Chef Angela Nardi would also put together unique seasonal offerings that incorporate food grown and produced by local farmers and artisans.

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Want a place to stop before dinner for a flight of interesting brews and some delicious appetizers? The Superior Bathhouse offers delightful meat and cheese plates for $10 and $15 with tasty little food enhancers on the side for a mere quarter. On a recent evening, I took advantage of their happy hour half price special and got a platter composed of cheese, JV Farms’ salami and cold smoked pork shoulder for $5. Deciding to splurge, for a single dollar, I ordered house-made garlic paste, pesto, marinated yellow tomatoes and artichoke hearts to accompany the meat and cheese. I layered these delightful treats on slices of baguette and whole grain crackers washing them down with a Whittington Park Wheat, one of the nine beers that are brewed in-house. The cheese, meat, and other goodies could have easily sufficed as a whole meal at the whopping price of $6. Now that is farm to table goodness at a fair price. Not a drinker? Enjoy a glass of homemade draft root beer and compose an appetizer plate suited to your own taste, but do try the 26-month aged Beemster Cheese.

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On another evening, we again focused on appetizers and could easily have made a meal on the Boursin Tomato and Pesto Stack, Savory Mushroom Strudel and Southern Black-Eyed Pea Hummus shared by our table of three. These diverse dishes were topped with organic micro-greens from Arkansas Natural Produce.

 

IMG_7890In addition to this excellent array of starters, the menu offers flavorful sandwiches and numerous salads. One dining companion heartily enjoyed her Reuben and I can vouch for the delicate citrus quinoa salad. At the dinner hour, three diverse entrees are offered two of which feature JV Farms pork ribs and bratwurst. The third, chicken breasts with basil and lemon is not a dish I would usually order. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good chicken dish but often “restaurant” chicken, especially breast meat is dried out and tired tasting. Get ready for two juicy pieces of chicken redolent with the taste of herbs and tart citrus.

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I could write an entire page about the gelato bar. The gelatos and sorbets are all locally made by Marque Haupert who studied gelato-making in Italy. If you’re in Hot Springs and need a quick, refreshing pick-me-up, grab a parking place and run into the Superior Brewery for a cup or cone from the tempting board of flavors. Or, cleanse your palate with one of the lighter sorbets. It’s the perfect end to a locally sourced meal at the Superior Bathhouse, a very welcome addition to the Hot Springs’ eating scene.

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The Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery is located at 329 Central Avenue in Hot Springs and opens daily at 11 am.
501-624-2337

superiorbathhouse.com
Facebook: Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery

Straw Bale Gardening

by Sharon Dent

Hot Springs and the vicinity are known for rocky soil.  We laughingly say the best shovel to use here is a pick ax. Most gardeners that I know, opt to build raised or elevated beds filled with imported soil to overcome the situation.

A straw bale garden between a driveway and a fence

There is another option: straw bale gardens. Lynn Harris who lives within shouting distance to downtown Hot Springs is trying straw bale gardening. She is a long time gardener without much space on her urban lot. She added straw bales along the backyard driveway abutting the property line. This created a narrow linear garden. She has harvested herbs, peppers tomatoes and more.

Straw bale garden later in season

She got an early start in the spring, first identifying the sunny spot to use and wetting the bales down for several consecutive days. The moist bales heat up and so a few more steps were needed to cool and condition the bales before planting. Over the next 6 days, she continued to water but introduced fertilizer as well

Note: Either liquid fertilizer or ammonia sulfate will work. When using ammonia sulfate sprinkle about ½ cup on each bale each day of the conditioning period. 

She kept the bales moist for the next four days and measured the temperature inside the bales.  She planted when the temperature was equal to that of the outside temperature.

Close up of straw bale garden Close up of straw bale garden

Close up of straw bale garden

I also tried straw bale gardening this summer of 2015 for the first time. I got a later start than Lynn and placed a dozen bales one or two high next to our vegetable garden in the backyard. I was inspired by Lynn to try it.

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The literature I read suggested planting herbs and shorter plants such as lettuce and spinach. By the time I got started, it was too late for cool weather plants. I will try those in October.

I planted a few tomatoes and herbs. The basil especially liked the environment. I also planted squash, watermelon, and cantaloupe, but they were not as successful as the tomatoes. I think it was because I did not fertilize every two weeks after planting as recommended in the literature. Nor did I water enough during July.

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Here are a few tips:

  •  Put newspaper or cardboard under the bales to choke out weeds.
  • When placing and/or stacking the bales, turn them on their narrow side and face the cut straw side up rather than the side with the folded straw. It will be much easier to cut the holes for planting.
  • The holes should be about twice the size of the root ball of the plants. Add a high quality planting soil in the holes, and plant seeds or seedlings.

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That’s Amore!  Divinity at DeLuca’s Pizzeria

by Julia Milano

Pizza, that delectable combination of tomatoes, crispy yet soft crust, melted cheese, savory meats and roasted vegetables.

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Combined correctly, these ingredients can produce the most luscious of taste sensations. Theoretically, good pizza should be a umami experience whereby a fifth taste joins the expected flavors of bitter, salty, sweet and sour. Natural umami represents the taste of the amino acid L-glutamate which is naturally occurring in foods like mushrooms, vegetables, ripe tomatoes and aged products involving yeast or certain cheeses. Lifting another drippy bite to my mouth I reflect that without a doubt, this is the most umami pizza I have ever tasted, a true synergy of the five basic tastes.

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Momentarily lifting eyes from my plate, I see Chef Anthony Valinoti, owner of DeLuca’s Pizzeria in Hot Springs and the creator of this ultimate gustatory experience, striding across the dining room. In his arms are two huge tubs of Pink Flamingo and Black Oyster mushrooms grown in nearby Benton. I motion Chef Valinoti over to thank him for his culinary genius and inquire how he achieves such an amazing synthesis of flavors.

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“I deal with as many local farmers as possible and also import the highest quality of ingredients I can from Italy.”

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The vegetarian pizza I am eagerly consuming contains locally grown heirloom tomatoes, arugula, onions, garlic and black oyster mushrooms. No flavor overwhelms the other and the crust made from King Arthur’s artisan flour, water and yeast has an ethereal yet solid delicacy which has been browned to perfection in Chef Valinoti’s brick oven. The whole milk mozzarella isn’t the least bit greasy and based on availability, DeLuca’s also offers fresh buffalo mozzarella. Hand-crafted from Italian tomatoes, and other seasonings, the pizza sauce is robust but not acidic. For those who like a protein packed pizza, there are an unusual array of high-quality meats to add-on including JV Farms’ homemade Italian fennel sausage, Pancetta from Butcher & Public in Little Rock and smoked beef from McClards.

In addition, Chef Valinoti uses Peppadew Peppers from South Africa, these piquant, sweet beauties don’t give me the slightest bit of indigestion. In fact, usually after consuming pizza, I feel sluggish and bloated. But DeLucca’s Pizza is so purely sourced and perfectly balanced that I don’t have my customary pizza hangover.

The menu also features an antipasto platter with homemade lemon or tomato vinaigrette and Arkansas spring mix salads. The simple one-page menu is a refreshing experience offering excellence and food made with love to discerning patrons.

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Before energetically moving off to craft more of his magical pies, Chef Valinoti leaves me with these words, “Most people make you the kind of pizza you’re used to; I make you the kind of pizza I dream about.”

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DeLuca’s Pizzeria is located at 407 Park Avenue, Hot Springs and is open Thursday through Sunday. Call 501-609-9002 as hours are variable.
delucaspizzeria.com
Facebook: Deluca’s Pizzeria Napoletana

Orangeade Kraut: a simple recipe for cultured vegetables

by Louise Lee

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This is an embellished version of a very simple recipe for Donna Schwenk’s Orangeade Kraut. She is one of my favorite fermentation experts. Cabbage is the most common basic ingredient for cultured vegetables, because cabbage is naturally high in probiotics. Her addition of apple and orange slices makes the kraut more palatable to someone new to eating cultured vegetables.

Her very simple recipe calls for a small head of cabbage, an apple, an orange and a tablespoon of Celtic sea salt. Since I’ve been making cultured vegetables for over a decade, I have developed an ever changing list of things I like to include. They are all optional.

I start by chopping the cabbage. I like to do it by hand, but you can use a food processor. I core and chop the apple and add it to the cabbage. I prefer to use a  Granny Smith green apple if I have one. As soon as the cabbage and apple is done, I add the salt and set the mixture aside to let the salt start drawing the water out of the cabbage.

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I slice the orange and set it aside until the end when I put the kraut in the jar(s).

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I always put grated carrots in my kraut, and I like to add daikon when I have it.

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Red bell peppers add color.

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All this slicing and dicing is labor intensive, so it’s nice to have a kraut friend like Casey Jones to help.

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Kale is another vegetable that cultures well.

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I slice it very thinly.

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I like to add some type of seaweed, in this case, dulse flakes. Dill weed is one of my standard ingredients. Black seed is a more recent addition. I always add garlic when making kraut for myself, but I am a garlic lover.

When everything is in the bowl(s), I toss it with tongs. It makes a beautiful mixture, and it is already somewhat reduced by the salt.

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When I first started making cultured vegetables, I made it in a crock pot liner. Then I bought a big crock especially for sauerkraut. Eventually, I realized that putting it in a jar was better. I use a half gallon jar and add smaller jars if I need them. It’s always surprising how much it reduces by the time you fill the jar(s). I use wide mouth canning jars — half gallon, quart, and pint. I buy plastic lids and give the metal ones to friends who do canning.

I put an orange slice on the bottom of the jar and more along the sides as I pack the kraut in. I use tongs and pack the vegetables down as I add them to the jar.

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Sometimes I save some of the outer leaves of the cabbage to put on top. I have glass weights that are nice to add. The vegetables need to be covered with juice as they ferment, and you add spring water if there is not enough juice to cover the vegetables. It’s important to leave an inch at the top of the jar for expansion during fermentation.

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I learned about airlock lids from Donna Schwenk and bought several from her store at CulturedFoodLife.com. They were a huge improvement in my fermentation efforts. The big crocks of kraut made my laundry room very stinky. I live in a much smaller house now, so the jars with airlock lids are much more civilized.AirLock

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I leave the jars with the airlock lids  on my kitchen counter until I want to stop the fermentation process.  You can open the lid and taste the kraut every day. If you refrigerate it after a few days, the vegetables will be somewhat crunchy and the taste will be mild. The longer it ferments, the mushier the vegetables become and the tarter it will taste.

JarsCultured vegetables like this are loaded with probiotics. If you eat a half a cup a day, it will do wonders for your intestinal flora, your body ecology.

You can add it to your plate, or  you can get creative by adding it to a salad — it’s the magic ingredient in mine — or to vegetables. It’s great on sandwiches too.

Fried cabbage and sausage: a simple recipe real food style

by Louise Lee

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A friend posted a simple recipe on his Facebook page, and it looked like a winner.

FRIED CABBAGE WITH SAUSAGE

This is a quick and easy dish.

1 stick butter
1 small head of cabbage, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced into round pieces
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes or Ro*Tel tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Melt butter in large skillet. Add cabbage, onion, and cook on medium high for about 5 minutes, stirring to keep from sticking to pan. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer for 20–25 minutes.

I tried it a few months ago with boxed Pomì tomatoes, organic grocery store butter, and JV Farms pork bratwurst. It was very good. Tonight I tried it again with all real food, and it was even better.

I used half a large head organic cabbage from Kroger. IMG_7713

I substituted homemade raw milk butter and started by sauteeing a yellow onion from the Farmers Market.

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I cooked  a pound of JV Farms pork bratwurst and IMG_7716

sliced it before adding it to the skillet. IMG_7720

I chopped cherry tomatoes from the garden and a large tomato from the Farmers Market.

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I added sea salt and freshly ground pepper with some homegrown garlic.

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Okay, it took longer to chop the tomatoes than it did to used boxed. And if you add in the time for homemade butter (separating cream from raw milk and then making butter with a mixer), it’s not as quick. Chopping some fresh garlic adds a little more time, but it’s worth it. So the recipe while not as quick has a flavor is wonderful, and it’s worth the extra effort. The nutrition has to be better by a few notches.

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It’s a simple one dish meal with an abundance of fresh vegetables and a small (by American standards) but adequate serving of meat. And the meat is healthy, flavorful grass fed pork from a trusted local farmer.

Waterlogged Soil and Gardens

by Grazzie Warbritton

Have you finished building your ark yet?  So much water.  And we’re told that the lakes haven’t even crested yet.  Oh, our poor soaked gardens.

For gardeners this over-abundance of water surprisingly means that we have much less control over our plants and gardens than we do in times of drought.  Well, that was a surprise to me!  And unless our precious plants are living in moveable containers, we can only appeal to the rain gods to change the weather.  There isn’t much we can do if our gardens are waterlogged.  However, once there are a few sunny days to dry things out, you need to assess your garden’s status.

If your garden is truly waterlogged, your plants are almost certainly stressed—or soon might be.  Why?  Because there is an insufficient amount of oxygen in the soil.  Every plant’s roots must take in and release excess carbon dioxide.  Paradoxically plants look as if they are wilting, but not because of too little water.  They simply are unable to access the available water.  This causes root rot, and plant death.  We might not be able to prevent heavy rains or flooding, but we can be alert for signs that our plants are suffering.  Symptoms of water damage can look just like many other plant problems. Symptoms usually begin with the leaves, although trees and shrubs may not exhibit symptoms for a year or more.   Other symptoms include twisting, yellowing, and dropping leaves; lack of flowers or fruits; wilting (despite abundance of water) and roots that are turning dark (sometimes with a scent of rot).  Look for soft or spongy areas at the base of leaves.

I was surprised to learn that flooding during warm weather is more damaging to plants because in warm weather they are “breathing more” and need more oxygen during cold weather.

Unfortunately, once the garden soil is flooded, the best thing to do is what’s hardest—to be patient.  Just because a plant shows signs of distress doesn’t mean it won’t eventually recover.

Here are a few guidelines for dealing with waterlogged soil

  1. Don’t walk on waterlogged soil. Walking on it usually further compacts the soil and causes even more damage to distressed roots.
  2. Remove plants that are under water and remove any sludge or other residue by cleaning them with a gentle stream from the hose.
  3. Stay vigilant for diseases that take favor stressed plants. These include fungal diseases that thrive on damp weather.
  4. Buy an inexpensive soil-moisture meter from your nearby hardware store. It will tell you the percentage of water remaining in your soil.  Of course, if you still have mud, you don’t need a meter to tell you the soil is waterlogged.  If you want to know if the soil is dry enough for the roots to get the necessary oxygen, a meter will tell you when the soil has reached that level (usually between 40 – 70%).

Weavers Produce & More

Where can you go to get fresh tomatoes in November, double yoked eggs, and pickled garlic? IMG_8257

Weavers Produce & More opened six years ago in a tent in front of what used to be Patsy’s Bar & Grill, at 3822 North State Hwy. 7, Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. They later opened a stand at the Shell station near the Village East Gate. A year ago, they moved into Suite 1 at the Civers Center.

strawberriesontableThe store is a nice large space with long tables loaded with fresh produce, racks full of preserved foods and natural products, and an abundance of freezers full of vegetables and fruits. Harold and Deloris Weaver are experts on finding good food, and they are happy to tell you about what they have and where it comes from.

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Anderson Farm in Bismarck, Arkansas, famous for their candy sweet purple and white onions, is one of their suppliers. During the growing season, the Weavers buy their onions, new potatoes, pickling cucumbers, squash, green beans, eggplant, turnips, turnip greens, and mustard greens from Anderson Farm.

peaches2In the summer, the Weavers get peaches and blackberries from
Jamison Orchard
in Nashville, Arkansas. They sell peaches at the store and at the Shell station near the Village East Gate. Surplus goes into the freezers and is available long past the growing season.

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Wardlaw Brothers Farms in Hermitage, Arkansas is another of the Weavers’ suppliers. They have 140 acres certified organic, and they grow tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, squash, peppers, strawberries, watermelon, and cantaloupes.

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cheese&butterIn addition to fresh and frozen produce, the Weavers stock preserved goods such as jams, jellies, pickled garlic, as well as noodles, cheese, butter and lots more from Ohio Amish Country in Millersville, Ohio. They also stock maple syrup from Wisconsin, and an array of natural products. They have spices, lotions, salves, ointments, and candles from J.R. Watkins. They also carry essential oils and soaps and other natural products from Melaleuca.

The Weavers recently added produce from Arkansas Natural Produce, which means they will have fresh vegetables, greens, and herbs all winter.

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Around December 20, the Weavers head to West Palm Beach, Florida to visit their grandchildren. The trip is timed to coincide with the peak of the citrus season, and they also visit Anthony Orchard and bring back Honeybells, oranges, grapefruit, coconuts, Florida avocados, tangerines, and clementines.

Stopping by the store is always a pleasant experience. Spending some time to explore and talk can result in some unusual finds – Arkansas black and Honeycrisp apples, mineral-rich unrefined maple syrup, frozen creamed corn, frozen cranberries. It’s one of those places where there is such abundance that you need to slow down and look closely. It’s a jewel of a produce market – and more.

Weavers Produce & More

3822 Hwy 7 N, Suite 1
Hot Springs Village, AR
501-282-2321

Hours:
April through September: Closed Sunday and Wednesday
Closed Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, October – March

Facebook: Weavers produce & more.