26 July 2019

Econ 101 at Napa Farmers Market

by Curtis Strohl

Napa Valley Register

Many years ago, before finding my true calling as a wine geek (and farmers market supporter), I studied economics in school. Economics requires a student to see communities as organic networks for sharing the limited resources available.

Through this lens, one learns to see almost anything — goods, services, time, ideas — as part of a marketplace where it may be exchanged for something of like value. And every course in economics begins with a discussion that goes something like this:

“Farmer John grows potatoes. Just down the road, Farmer Bob grows corn. Now Farmer John loves growing potatoes, and he’s proud of his potatoes and thinks that they’re the best in the whole county. But Farmer John’s wife doesn’t want potatoes seven days a week. She has a hankering for some fresh corn every now and again. So Farmer John loads up his truck with potatoes and heads down the road to see Farmer Bob. He asks Farmer Bob if he has any corn to spare and offers to trade him: a bushel of his famous potatoes for a bushel of Bob’s delicious, sweet corn.”

But don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a lecture on international trade or competing theories of government involvement in the economy. This is a discussion about something smaller, yet much more important.

Behind all trade, all commerce, all financial activity is the stark reality of human existence: we are nothing without food and shelter. So any study of wealth, of value, of exchange is necessarily the study of how we cope with feeding ourselves and keeping ourselves warm, dry and out of harm’s way.

A community that can keep itself healthy and well-fed will be a strong community. Travel, good wine, arts, hobbies: we think about these interests only when we have enough to eat. Many of us take for granted that we will remain well-fed and cared for. But our food sources and distribution networks need constant care, development and protection.

A robust, clean, varied and local food market is critical to our overall food security. A thriving local market delivers fresh ingredients efficiently while also securing supplies for the future by providing income to local farmers so that they can continue to farm.

It’s a positive feedback loop. It’s delicious. It’s beautiful. And it’s extremely supportive of our continued well-being. In a healthy marketplace, you don’t have to show up with a sack of potatoes to leave with a bag full of corn, mushrooms, tomatoes, strawberries, cookies, sausage…well, you get the picture. See you at the Napa Farmers Market.

Nana’s Strawberry Pie

This recipe is from the “White Dog Café Cookbook” by Judy Wicks and Kevin Von Klause (Running Press).

It’s summertime, and that means you should be eating strawberry pie. This cookbook is so well-loved in our house that it is barely held together. “Dog-eared” doesn’t begin to describe it. Try out this simple, but delicious, recipe and you’ll begin to understand why.

3 pints fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and stemmed

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 pre-baked pie crust

Fresh whipped cream

Reserve 1 pint of the best-looking strawberries.

Place the remaining berries in a bowl and crush with a pastry blender, potato masher or strong wire whip. Combine the crushed berries, sugar, cornstarch, butter, and lemon juice in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat until thick and clear, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Pour the filling into the pie crust. Arrange the reserved strawberries, stem side down, in concentric circles over the filling. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Serve with whipped cream.

If you’ve never made fresh whipped cream, now is your chance. You’ll never go back to store-bought.

1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled

2 tablespoons powdered sugar, or to taste

Chill a large, preferably metal, bowl in the freezer. Pour the cream into the chilled bowl and whip with a whisk or electric beaters until the cream starts to thicken a bit and resist. Add the sugar and continue to whip until it is incorporated. Taste and add more sugar if you like but don’t overdo it. Continue to whip until the cream stands up but be careful not to overwhip or the cream will break down. One cup cream yields about 2 cups whipped cream.

Kids activities at the Napa Farmers Market: Bring your youngsters to the market’s Education Station on Tuesday and Saturdays for Story Time at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. There might be coloring, matching games or other fun activities, too.

On the KVYN Music Stage: On Saturday, July 27, Mikey Bilello will be performing. On Tuesday, July 30, Fred McCarty will be our guest musician.

Harvest of the Month: Through July, enjoy comparative tastings of plums and pluots and sample sweet corn at the market’s Education Station at 11 a.m.