Is there a connection between who you are and what you eat? The adage is likely hinting at our waistlines more than our personalities but, in my view, I’ve never met a person who truly enjoys some good North Carolina-grown produce that I couldn’t get along with. Sweet potatoes, scuppernong grapes, butter beans, and the prized mattamuskeet sweets breed kind, good-humored people, as far as we can tell here on the OBX. Those friendly folks near Kill Devil Hills all seem to gather in one place, around another kind-hearted soul – Ed Goninan at Tarheel Too Produce Market.
Ed came to the beach 23 years ago by way of Norfolk, VA, to open Tarheel Too – the follow up to his brother-in-law, Joe Howington’s Tarheel Produce Market in Grandy. Tarheel Too sits in the Seagate North shopping center, right where the center’s owner’s mother requested it to be, back in 1996, when she grew weary of driving from the beach to Currituck to get her fresh produce.
Ed’s blue and white building is lit up from April to late September with a constellation of colorful tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, squash, berries, watermelon, figs, beans, and peas. This produce is so fresh, sometimes the dirt is barely shook off- a feature I think we all instinctually love; it feels like we’re sidling right up to the table with Mother Nature. I find squeaky clean potatoes and onions stacked in symmetrical pyramids questionable… they don’t quite look like vegetables anymore and how’d they get so clean?
Ed gets as much of his produce as he can from local farmers in Currituck, Rocky Hock, and Camden, some from the state farmers markets, plus a few citrusy and tropical fruit staples he brings in from wholesalers. A few loads of fresh fruits and veggies are donated by Ed to church programs and some to events like Relay For Life. The rest we gobble up, tasting the summer sun in every bite of those juicy tomatoes and ripe melons. If we don’t get to all of it soon enough and the fruit flies threaten to swarm in, there’s a lucky hog and a flock of chickens somewhere in Kitty Hawk, getting plump and happy on produce past its prime.
If you’re a Tarheel Too follower, smitten as we all are with the ability to get a week’s worth of produce for less than the cost of a large pizza, maybe you’ve also seen their cookbook, Tarheel Too Cooks With You. Maria, one of Ed’s helpers, launched this handbook of simple, nutritious recipes in collaboration with Ed and his wife, Dawn.
In the introduction to the book, Ed and Dawn talk about their customers as friends and extended family, the kind of people who will happily give a dollar when someone comes up short for their okra and cantaloupes. On my weekly visit to Ed’s, 5 minutes often turns into 10, talking with other customers about what they’re cooking or with Ed about his plans for dinner that night. Here’s a favorite recipe from that book and with tender, fresh butter beans, sugary sweet corn, and snappy bell peppers, it’s North Carolina on a plate.Print
Tarheel Too’s Succotash
A favorite recipe Ed Goninan shared with me from The Tarheel Too Cooks With You cookbook.
- Prep Time: 3 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 18 minutes
- Yield: 6 cups 1x
- Category: Side dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Southern
- 1 pound fresh butter beans
- 4 ears corn, kernels cut off
- 3 TBS butter
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place beans in a pot and add water to cover by 1 1/2 inches and a dash of salt. Cook until tender. Remove from heat and drain.
- In a large skillet over medium heat melt butter. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook until just soft and add corn. Cook 2-3 minutes and add beans. Adjust seasoning and cook 4-5 minutes more until corn is cooked through. Serve.