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Rachel Rosen, V&M Farms

Rachel Rosen, V&M Farms, is one of many market vendors offering ripe berries, including strawberries, at this time of year.

Fresh berries are among the most powerful (and delicious) disease-fighting foods. They contain high antioxidant levels, just as high as kale. Anthocyanins, the pigments responsible for red, purple and blue coloring, have been shown to lower the risk of some cancers and promote urinary tract health, improved memory and healthy aging.

Nutritionists say just three servings per day can provide significant health benefits. We all love berry desserts with strawberry shortcake, berry pies and ice cream being among the favorites.

But in summer weather when I don’t want to be stuck over a hot stove, one of my go-to desserts is a riff on trifle I call “Easier than Cheese Cake.”

Mix three-quarters cup of graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar, one-quarter teaspoon ground cinnamon and one-quarter cup chopped walnuts in a large bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons softened butter and set aside.

In another bowl, beat 3 ounces of softened cream cheese with one-third cup confectioners’ sugar until smooth and then beat in one-half cup ricotta cheese and 2 teaspoons lemon juice.

Place one-half cup of your favorite berry in each of four dessert dishes or glasses, top with the cream cheese mixture, crumbs and another cup of berries. Refrigerate until serving and top with whipped cream if desired.

Since I prefer savory foods, I love adding blackberries to my favorite grilled cheese sandwich (a mixture of shredded white cheddar, shredded Gruyere, shredded Parmesan and a small amount of mayonnaise).

Berries are plentiful at the Farmers’ Market. Sebastopol Berry Farm has blueberries, black raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. V&M Farms and Tu Universo have ripe strawberries and red raspberries. Long Meadow Ranch has both strawberries and fantastic strawberry jam. Be Here Farm offers fresh blueberries and lovely infused vinegars in boysenberry, raspberry and strawberry flavors.

We invite you to join us for a free berry tasting from 9:30 until 11, Friday, July 19. Come sample many of the wonderful berries available right now.

Also happening this Friday are two great activities for kids. Nimbus Arts will make their debut with “Nimbus Arts Hour at the St. Helena Farmers’ Market” where Erin Arnsteen will host a “Flower Power” program from 9:30 until 10:30 and market educator Arwen Gallenkamp will lead the Kids’ Story Hour at 9:30. Fantasy Faces’ talented painter, Christina, will also be on hand from 8:30 until noon.

We hope to see you in beautiful Crane Park every Friday through Oct. 25 from 7:30 to noon. For more information on our programs, please visit us at sthelenafarmersmkt.org.

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Stacey Bressler is a local vintner, a member of the St. Helena Farmers’ Market Board of Directors and a past Citizen of the Year.

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