As we approach Earth Day celebrations around the valley and the globe, I would like to share with you one of the greatest blessings you can give our planet: the gift of shopping local.
By buying your produce from your local farmers’ market, you are reducing the number of miles that food must travel to get to your kitchen. The less your food travels, the less fossil fuel is consumed and the fresher, more nutritious, and more flavorful the product.
Local products also create local jobs, support small businesses and keep your funds circulating within your own community. But for some, there’s a downside: the limitations of seasonality.
We live in the largest farming state in the nation. Roughly 43 percent of California land is used for agriculture, spanning 20 different climate zones. Still, nature imposes limits. Apples are a fall crop, while most citrus ripens in winter. California peaches, corn and melons don’t appear until summer.
Nature provides cool-weather crops and warm-weather crops. From April until mid-May, Northern California is at the tail end of the cool-crop harvest. Locally grown corn, watermelon, apples and peaches are weeks away, but farmers’ market shoppers can still find broccoli, squash blossoms, oranges, asparagus, kale, greens, beets, carrots, onions, lettuce, edible flowers, strawberries, hot-house tomatoes, fava beans, leeks, spinach, cut flowers, cherries, herbs, nursery starts and more.
The Napa Farmers’ Market also offers several agricultural products less affected by seasonality: honey, mushrooms, nuts, milk, yogurt, cheese, pasture-raised meat (beef, poultry and pork) and eggs from pasture-raised hens.
In the coming weeks, the cool, rainy weather will give way to warm, dry, sunny days. When this happens, the crop selection at the market will begin to change. The cherries, asparagus and fragrant sweet peas will dwindle until, one market day, they won’t appear at all; their season will have ended. But as if to compensate for that loss, the onion displays will grow larger, eventually to be joined by bulbs of white and red garlic.
Later still, figs will arrive and stone fruits: first apricots and nectarines, quickly followed by peaches and plums. By midsummer, farmers’ market shoppers will be loading their canvas bags with fresh-picked corn and the first outdoor-grown tomatoes, along with zucchini and crisp cucumbers. This bounty will be followed by peppers, a variety of green beans, then melons, pluots, berries, grapes, persimmons, winter squash and the poignant symbol of the coming of winter: the pomegranate.
When you shop at the farmers’ market, you can experience each season as it unfolds and celebrate the best our region produces. Shop the market on Tuesdays and enjoy some relaxed, one-on-one conversations with vendors. Shop the market this Saturday and celebrate Earth Day by acknowledging the cycle of the seasons and eating and shopping responsibly.
This family recipe has been passed down and tweaked by each generation. I added the leeks and use fresh spinach rather than frozen. If I call it spinach pie, my kids will eat it.
9-inch pie crust
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons grated sharp cheese
1 Tbsp. butter
1 leek, thinly sliced (white and pale green part only)
1 clove garlic, chopped
3/4 pound fresh spinach leaves
1/3 cup milk
2 Tbsp. sour cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Sprinkle the pie crust with 2 tablespoons of the grated cheese.
In a frying pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leek and garlic and saute until soft. Toss with the spinach and pack the vegetables into the pie crust.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. milk, sour cream and 1/2 cup of grated cheese until well mixed. Whisk in salt and pepper, then pour into the pie crust. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake until the custard has set, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes before slicing.
Makes one 9-inch quiche.
The Napa Farmers Market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., April 15 through Nov. 21, 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.
The Farmers’ Market participates in the Market Match Program, doubling CalFresh users’ buying power on EBT-approved items. Benefits can be accessed at the market information booth. Several farm vendors are also certified to accept WIC and SNAP checks (available through WIC). For a list of WIC certified vendors, visit the market’s information booth.