24 May 2018

Napa Farmers Market on a Veggie Mission

by Cara Mae Wooledge

in the Napa Valley Register

When you think of kids and veggies, kale probably isn’t the first vegetable that comes to mind. This season, the Napa Farmers Market is on a mission to share the love of all vegetables through fun activities featuring fresh produce from our local farmers and ranchers.

Every Saturday at 10:30 a.m., kids of all ages, including the young at heart, are invited to stop by the Education Station to experience fresh produce in a variety of ways.

But first, let’s get real about vegetables. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that a diet filled with vegetables is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. Many people “talk the talk” about eating seasonal, local produce. Yet secretly they long for summer tomatoes, peppers and corn during their spring stroll down the aisles of the Napa Farmers Market. As equal-opportunity vegetable lovers, the market’s managers selected kale as our April “Harvest of the Month” to give this green giant a chance to shine.

Most adults have gotten the memo that kale supplies a hearty dose of vitamins and minerals in every fiber-filled mouthful. Kale has become so trendy you can find it in everything from protein smoothies to pasta sauce.

Some people, including me, actually enjoy kale for its irony goodness. Kids, on the other hand, are a tough audience when it comes to this rough, earthy green.

During April’s educational activities at the farmers market, kids got up close and personal with kale. When asked why we should eat kale, kids said because it is “healthy” and when they feel healthy they feel “strong” and “happy.” When asked what kale tastes like, one girl said “vitamins.” Fair enough. Kids learned that kale is a smart choice because it contains vitamins and minerals that help their bodies grow and fiber that helps them feel full so they don’t get hungry again too soon.

Then came the moment of truth: the raw kale taste test. Although one tester looked like she wanted to spit it right out, all the kids gave kale (from J & J Ramos Farms) a chance. A couple of weeks later at the farmers market, two more veggies went head to head in a taste-off: Big Ranch Farms broccoli versus Esquivel Organic Farms cabbage. To the surprise of many, cabbage won in a landslide. From reluctant youngsters to hardened old- timers, the just-picked cabbage changed more than a few minds and was praised as a sweet, crunchy treat.

An easy way to make kale even more enjoyable is by baking it into chips. I can cook; however, I tend to outsource this labor of love to professionals and to my extremely talented partner. When I do cook, especially if I use a recipe, I want it to be simple, straightforward and satisfying.

This kale chip recipe is 100 percent no-nonsense and a great way to engage little helpers in the kitchen. Chips, as we know, are often viewed as just a vehicle to transport dip. I recommend pairing fresh kale chips with a zesty yogurt dip. My only problem is that most of these crispy bites travel directly from the baking sheet to my mouth.

Crispy Kale Chips

1 bunch kale

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash kale and dry well in a salad spinner or with paper towels. Moist kale will make soggy chips. Remove the ale ribs and tear or chop the leaves into chip-sized pieces.

Put the kale in a bowl and sprinkle with a little olive oil. Season with salt and add pepper if you like. Mix gently with your hands.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Spread the kale on the baking sheet so that the pieces aren’t touching. Bake for 10 minutes, then check for crispness. If they aren’t crisp yet, bake a little longer. Be careful: Kale chips go from crisp to burned very quickly. Transfer crispy chips to a bowl and enjoy as is or with a yogurt dip.

Serves 2 to 4

Cara Mae Wooledge is the Napa Farmers Market assistant manager and education director. She is a passionate community advocate and thinks healthy options should be easy and fun.

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 demonstrations 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