California Farmer's Market
Before this week I had never been to Napa Valley but I knew a few things about the area. I knew it is really warm with almost no humidity. I knew it has great restaurants, the best known being The French Laundry. And I knew it has spectacular wine. But I really was not concentrated on the foodstuffs. Especially not the produce.
Produce became my focus when I visited the St. Helena Farmers Market. There were so many varieties of fruits and vegetables I had never seen before. Like the Tiger Melons. And the Lemon Cucumbers. And the orange raspberries. And three different varieties of late-season peaches that still tasted like they were in peak season. Because they were. It made me realize how much we are missing in the Northeast. California has a much better growing environment, making their farmer’s markets much more rewarding. In the tri-state area we are accustomed to eating produce grown in mass quantities on large farms. Of course it goes without saying that you really taste the difference when top quality produce is grown right there and is not sitting on a truck for a week.
To me the highlight of the market was the strawberries I purchased from Middleton Farm. They were the best strawberries I’ve ever had. One of the owners, a woman in her nineties, told me three things about them. She said they would be the best strawberries I’ve ever had. That Thomas Keller is in love with them. And then, as I was leaving, she reminded me not to wash them before consumption. Washing those strawberries would be washing away their flavor. I finished the whole pint before I got out of the car. Somehow I need to get my hands on them again…and soon.
This Week’s Tip: I cannot overstate the importance of visiting local farmer’s markets and farm stands when you travel. There is so much more happening beyond your local market…and you need to taste it!