by Janet Fletcher

Napa Valley Register

Farmers markets have been an addiction of mine for 40 years. The first time I bought food straight from the farmer, I was a college sophomore studying in France. I can still picture that market in Aix-en-Provence four decades later. My mother served us fruits and vegetables, plenty of them, but they all came out of cans and frozen boxes. I never thought about how they got there.

Although I survived this child abuse, when I finally experienced fresh peas, asparagus and green beans it made an impression. I couldn’t get enough. Still can’t. A week without a trip to a farmers market — these days, the Napa Farmers Market — makes me irritable, like others get when they give up caffeine.

My top five reasons for shopping at farmers markets (I could list 10 but you’re busy):

  • The produce looks alive and perky. Fragile fruits and tomatoes were picked vine ripe because they didn’t have to travel far. Some leafy greens, herbs and berries were probably harvested just the day before.
  • Because it’s so fresh, the produce lasts longer. A big bunch of cilantro or basil will hang in there for a week, so you rarely have to throw any away.
  • You get to taste before you buy — a big plus when choosing peaches, berries or tomatoes. Farmers markets encourage sampling, and the grower is there to help you choose. I often hear vendors telling shoppers, “These peaches are for today; those need a couple of days on your kitchen counter.”
  • Farmers are great sources of information about how to store what you’ve bought and how to cook it. I also get growing tips that help me in my own gardening. Allow extra time for shopping the market so you can have these conversations with vendors. Tuesday is a slower market day, so vendors have more time to chat.
  • Lastly, it just feels good to know that my food dollars are going straight to the farmer. Farmers markets keep a lot of our small Northern California farms in business by allowing them to get a retail price for their harvest.

The Napa Farmers Market will join markets across the country to celebrate National Farmers Market Week from Aug. 5 to Aug. 11. Please come show your appreciation for our farmers on Tuesday, Aug. 7, and Saturday, Aug. 11. The market staff has some fun activities planned.

Shoppers, we’ll be asking you to Nominate Your Favorite Farmer, the one whose produce you can’t live without. The winning farmer will have his or her stall fee waived that day.

Take the Trivia Challenge. Spin the wheel at our Information Station and answer trivia questions about the market. Prizes for correct answers!

Bring your youngsters to the Information Booth for a coloring competition with prizes.

Enter the #LoveMyMarket Instagram Contest. Here’s how: Come to the market on Aug. 7 or Aug. 11 and get your free tattoo at the Information Booth. Take a photo of yourself, a farmer, shopper, puppy, baby, tomato—anyone or anything—wearing the tattoo. Post the photo to Instagram with the hashtag #LoveMyMarket. Include @napafarmersmkt or #napafarmersmarket in your post. The National Farmers Market Coalition will choose the winning images and award a prize to the photographer and the market. Submit your entries between Aug. 1 and Sept. 2.

Chef Demo at the Market: On Saturday, Aug. 4, at 10 a.m., chef Giovanni Guerrera of FoodShed will do a cooking demonstration at the Napa Farmers Market. The demonstration is free and recipes and tastes will be provided.

Peaches in Raspberry Wine Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup raspberries

1 tablespoon Cointreau, Grand Marnier or kirsch

4 large peaches or nectarines

Combine the water, wine and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Refrigerate until cold.

Puree the raspberries in a food processor. Using a rubber spatula, press the puree through a sieve into a bowl. Stir in the cold wine syrup and the Cointreau or other liqueur and chill.

To serve, put 2 tablespoons of the raspberry syrup in each of 8 balloon wineglasses. Peel the peaches. (If they are ripe, the skin should peel back easily with a paring knife.) Nectarines don’t require peeling. Slice or cube the fruit and divide it among the wineglasses. Serve immediately.

Serves 8

Janet Fletcher is a Napa food writer and a board member of the Napa Farmers Market.