One of perk of shopping at Whole Foods is the access to a wide range of goods from local North Carolinian producers. The reasons to shop local are plenty – not only do you experience the unique flavors and diversity of crops in your community, but also support your farmers (and boost the local economy)! I sought out and taste-tested 9 local products from Whole Foods that highlight the best of North Carolina.
1. Blueberry Elderberry Preserves from Norm's Farms
Made with GMO-free ingredients and no high fructose corn syrup, this tart-smelling but sweet-tasting preserve is a great option to slather up on your morning toast. Norm's Farms of Pittsboro features products made from the American elderberry, a superfood packed with antioxidants, iron and various vitamins.
2. Raspberry Chocolate Chip Popsicle from LunaPop
This refreshing popsicle has perfected the classic move of complementing tart raspberry flavor with the creamy crunch of dark chocolate chips. Based in Hillsborough, LunaPops handcrafts their popsicles with all natural ingredients, like whole fruits and dairy products from rBST-free cows. Other LunaPop flavors include hibiscus lemon, sea salt caramel and cookies 'n' cream.
3. Sunflower Bread from Ninth Street Bakery
Made with organic whole wheat flour, a bit of honey and lots of toasted sunflower seeds, this loaf is for the bread lover who believes that carbs should always be baked with care. This shop moved from its original Ninth Street location to Chapel Hill Street, and it's been serving the Durham community since 1981. The bakery now also serves coffee, sandwiches and various freshly baked sweets.
4. Almond Cocoa Butter from Big Spoon Roasters
The perfect way to dress up your Ninth Street bread is with this other Durham favorite. Now my personal go-to, this crunchy almond cocoa butter is rich, chocolatey and slightly salty. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, Big Spoon Roasters Founder Mark first learned how to make peanut butter in a rural village in Zimbabwe. Now he dedicates his life to pursuing his love of nut butters with flavors like peanut cashew, chai spice and mission almond.
5. Heirloom Bean & Vegetable Chili from Maggie's Conscious Vegan Cuisine
A container of Maggie's chili should be kept in every college student's fridge for nights when you don't have time to go get real food (and you're tempted to order pizza). Maggie is all about making gluten-free, low sodium and vegan meals that are convenient and actually tasty. Some other wholesome meals in her line include Tuscan white bean soup, Thai green curry with lentils and gazpacho.
6. Crunchy Monkey Granola from Little Red Wagon Granola
I now start all my mornings with Crunchy Monkey in vanilla soy milk. The granola is flavorful without being too sweet, plus its ingredients are wholesome and varied. Little Red Wagon Granola started at the Chapel Hill Carrboro Farmer's Market, where Yolanda shared her beloved granola and other baked goods. What was originally a passion project grew into a family business, and now Yolanda bakes yummy granola for all of North Carolina and beyond.
7. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake from Queen City Pastry
The creamy layers of peanut butter fudge, chocolate cake and chocolate mousse taste as decadent as they look. As a nurse, Angie would bake a cheesecake, cake or tart for the other nurses and doctors every week, but her immense passion for baking compelled Angie to expand beyond the surgery center. Now she is the proud owner of Queen City Pastry in Mooresville, where every dessert is made from scratch with the finest ingredients available.
8. Chocolate Peanut Butterbars from Upper Crust Crumbs Dessert Company
My love affair with chocolate peanut butter continues with this butterbar, which is beautifully assembled with layers of walnut brownie, peanut butter fudge and silky chocolate ganache. Based in Pilot Mountain, Upper Crust Crumbs specializes in butterbars – small rectangles of creamy goodness that taste best cold. Other butterbar flavors include pralines and cream, strawberry cheesecake, and chocolate mint.
9. Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin from Modern Muffin
These uniquely-shaped muffins are adorable because they just cannot stand upright. The cake is surprisingly moist and the chocolate chips were large and abundant. The best part about Modern Muffins is that they are made with unbleached wheat flour, real fruit and zero preservatives. Some other flavors include lemon blueberry, pumpkin cranberry, and orange pineapple poppyseed.
Buying local has so many benefits, and with all the culinary talents and vibrant flavors in North Carolina, there's no reason not to. Whole Foods is your go-to spot for health foods, slightly overpriced foods, and foods that make you proud to be living in the great State of North Carolina.