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Chef Mike Lata of Fig in Charleston, South Carolina, was recently quoted in Food & Wine magazine as saying, “Cooking in the spring is like make-up sex after the bitter fight with winter.” That quote gave me a chuckle, but he’s right. Spring is a chance to lighten up and have some fun in the kitchen. With the Napa Farmers Market now open every Tuesday and Saturday morning, you have access to a bounty of fresh-picked produce to get you in the mood.

If you haven’t gotten around to checking out the Napa Farmers Market this season, let me give you five good reasons to go.

— Support local family farmers and food artisans. Most of the vendors at the Napa Famers Market are from within a 100-mile radius of Napa, with several from the Napa Valley. By shopping at your local market, you keep family farming viable and support the local economy.

— Know where your food comes from. Healthy diets include plenty of fruits and vegetables, no matter where the produce is grown, but buying locally means your produce, meat and seafood have taken the shortest possible route to you. That’s good for the environment and for your family’s nutrition because vitamin content diminishes over time. At the market, you can ask farmers about their growing practices and be assured that your food is produced in a wholesome and sustainable way.

— Connect with your community. Why shop for your weekly groceries indoors and alone when you can visit with your neighbors, listen to music, learn something new about a local organization, and get your daily dose of vitamin D at the same time? Enough said.

— Pick up lunch or a cool gift. Surrounded by several great restaurants at the South Napa Century Center, a bevy of food trucks and an array of specialty food vendors, the Napa Farmers Market could become your go-to Tuesday lunch stop. You can eat there several weeks in a row and never have the same thing twice. It’s also a great place to find a last-minute gift of one-of-a-kind jewelry and other handcrafted wares. How about a floral bouquet for an ailing friend or for your boss?

  • Variety is the spice of life. I’ve never cooked with Chioggia beets or fresh morels, but this spring I intend to. The market is a great source for unusual produce and products that you won’t find anywhere else. And the fruits and vegetables are often picked the day before, which means they will last longer than supermarket produce. The market’s vendors are a good resource for recipe ideas and storage tips, and the chef’s cooking demo every Saturday provides even more ideas.

Two of my favorite spring vegetables are peas and radishes. This beautiful recipe from the Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen combines them both.

Spring Pea Salad with Radishes and Goat Cheese

For the dressing:

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the salad:

1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed

1/2 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed

8 radishes, very thinly sliced

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2 cups pea shoots

4 ounces fresh goat cheese

1/4 cup toasted pistachios

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

To make the dressing, in a small bowl combine lemon zest and juice, vinegar, shallot and olive oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring a pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Have ready a bowl of ice water. Add the snow peas to the boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Using a strainer, scoop out the snow peas and transfer them to the ice water. When they are cold, scoop them out of the ice water and set aside. Repeat with the snap peas, blanching them for 1 minute, refreshing them in the ice water and removing them from the water. Cut both the snow peas and snap peas in half on a diagonal.

In a large bowl, toss together the snow peas, snap peas and radishes. Add most of the dressing, reserving a few tablespoons, and toss to coat the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the vegetables to a serving platter. In the same bowl you used to dress the vegetables, combine the pea shoots and the reserved dressing and toss to coat. Scatter the pea shoots on top of the salad. Crumble the goat cheese evenly on top of the salad and sprinkle with the pistachios and dill. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Chef Cooking Demo at the Market: Chef Sally Latimer of Monday Bakery will demonstrate Buttermilk Biscuits with Farmers Market Bacon and Green Onions at the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, April 21, at 10 am. The demo is free and recipes and tastes will be provided.

Kids’ Activity at the Market: Bring your youngsters to the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, April 21, at 10:30 a.m. for “Yummy and Healthy,” part of the market’s weekly Youth Education Program. Sample a special fruit or veggie from Napa Farmers Market vendors. Kids learn why it’s healthy and how to eat it, then vote for their favorite sample. All ages welcome. Meet at the Education Station next to the Info Booth and across from the musicians.

Tia Butts is the founder and owner of Tia Butts|pr and is on the board of the Napa Farmers Market.

The Napa Farmers Market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the parking lot of the South Napa Century Center, 195 Gasser Drive, Napa. Vendors include many local produce and flower growers; fresh seafood and meat merchants; ready-to-eat fare; plus, other hand-crafted wares. Educational kids’ activities, chef demos and nonprofit-organization booths add to the enriching, multicultural shopping experience. The market also participates in the Market Match program, doubling the value of CalFresh benefits purchasing power for all eligible food products. For more information or a schedule of upcoming events, visit www.napafarmersmarket.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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