Summer crops are almost here, but before the tomato and stone fruit craze begins at the Napa Farmers Market, there are some less-appreciated vegetables that deserve the spotlight or a spot on your dinner menu.
Late spring is one of my favorite times of the year. I’m anticipating the abundance of summer fruit and vegetables growing at Gauchito Farm, yet I’m still able to appreciate the last of the spring greens. Local farmers harvest some of the best-tasting greens and root crops at this time of the year, due to the warm days and cooler evenings.
But change is imminent. As soon as daytime temperatures top 90 degrees Fahrenheit, root crops and greens become scarce until fall. In spring conditions, root crops like beets, carrots and turnips take only a few months to mature (60 to 75 days from seed to harvest), so many farmers plant these crops first. Thanks to the mild temperatures, these vegetables remain sweet and crisp. Now is the perfect time to enjoy these nutrient rich crops from local farms.
You can prepare them in so many ways. Food waste has been in the news lately, so perhaps you have been thinking more about how to use everything you purchase at the farmers market while it’s still in prime condition. Beets, carrots and the sweet “Tokyo” turnips are so versatile that you should have no trouble using them up.
These vegetables are high in vitamin C, dietary fiber and antioxidants, but their leaves are also packed with nutrients. Turnip leaves are an excellent source of vitamin K, calcium, iron and manganese. They can be eaten raw (when young), lightly steamed, stirred into a bean soup or added to a stir-fry.
Beet greens are equally tasty. Steam them and dress with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic.
Raw carrots and radishes make a great out-of-hand snack, or you can shred them for a salad. Root vegetables can be juiced, roasted or steamed.
I have included a recipe below for a pesto with carrot tops. Instead of asking the farmer to cut off the tops, take them home and try this recipe. The pesto recipe is adapted from www.larderlove.com.
Saturday at the Market: Story time starts at 10 a.m., followed by a kids’ art activity with market educator Barbara Ciapponi. Kids will explore the creative possibilities that start with their own tiny hands. Help your youngsters leave their mark on the Napa Farmers Market’s new Grow With Me Board.
Roasted Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto
For the Carrots:
Carrots, as many as you like, peeled if desired
Salt and pepper
Carrot-Top Pesto (see below)
For the Carrot-Top Pesto:
2 Tbsp. sliced almonds
Greens from 4 to 5 carrots, chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic or 1 stem of green garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the carrots on a diagonal. Toss with olive oil to coat lightly; season with salt and pepper. Arrange the carrots on the baking sheet and bake until soft and caramelized on the edges, about 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Make the Pesto: Toast the almonds in a dry skillet, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool. In a food processor, combine the almonds, carrot greens, cilantro, garlic, orange zest and juice. Process until blended. Add the cheese and pulse to blend. With the motor running, add olive oil gradually through the feed tube until the mixture has a pesto consistency. Transfer to a bowl and stir in salt and pepper to taste. Serve the pesto with the roasted carrots.
If you aren’t using it immediately, transfer the pesto to a small jar. Add enough olive oil to cover the surface and protect it from air. Refrigerate and use within 3 days. The pesto can be frozen, but in that case, omit the cheese and add it after defrosting.
The Napa Farmers Market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., May through October, in the parking lot of the South Napa Century Center, 195 Gasser Drive, Napa. The third Tuesday of every month is Seniors’ Day at the market, with some vendors offering discounts to shoppers 65 and older. Ask about participating vendors at the information booth. For more market information and a schedule of upcoming events, visit NapaFarmersMarket.org or visit the market on Facebook.