From Their Garden to Your Table

Zucchini and Kale Salad
Photo by Nash Rood.

Saturday mornings in the summer are made for farmers’ markets. Perusing the vibrant bounty of local harvests inspires healthy living and innovative dishes. Debora and Leo Chapman, of Chapman Family Farms, are on hand every week at the Nevada City market to give guidance and fresh ideas to shoppers out to create the perfect summer meal.

The Chapmans have lived in Nevada County since 1986 and have been gardening for decades before that. In fact, they grow all their own food. “There’s something different about food picked 10 to 15 minutes before it’s cooked as opposed to buying it at a grocery store,” Leo says. “The taste changes after three days. It loses its energy.”

The pair rarely goes to the grocery store, even harvesting their own olives for making their own oil. Favorite enhancements include olive oil, (fresh) garlic and salt. Minimal—and simple—ingredients are also integral to a successful dish. The Chapmans are big entertainers and use their food to bring friends together, often having lengthy dinner parties in their outdoor kitchen, where guests will “graze on grilled vegetables for hours.”

The Chapmans don’t know what they’re going to “demo” on any given Saturday— instead they get to the market early to see what’s available, then use only the best ingredients that day. They also find that by not using complicated ingredients and directions, there’s no need for a recipe card, and shoppers are more open to experimenting with new foods and flavors.

Deb and Leo shared their Massaged Kale Salad recipe because by early summer, people are often running out of ideas for kale. The Chapmans prefer not to cook it, as it’s most nutritious raw. Another staple for their summer dining is simple grilled vegetable dishes, like these zucchini cakes. They suggest using a cast iron pan and keeping it simple. “The best flavor comes out of the food, not all the spices or extras,” Leo says.

Massaged Kale Salad
1 bunch of kale, stems (ribs) removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
Optional: strawberries or blueberries

Slice kale into ribbons about .-inch thick. Mix in oil and salt and massage with your hands for about three to four minutes—this distributes the flavors and makes the leaves softer and even more digestible. Add lemon juice and massage another two minutes. Chill or serve right away. Add berries before serving for more color and a refreshing taste.

Zucchini Cakes
1 cup grated zucchini (yellow or green)
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg
Optional: 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated cheese, chopped green onions, parsley, paprika

Mix all ingredients. Add by spoonful to hot cast iron pan or griddle. Cook on each side two to five minutes or until done (not doughy). Can be eaten plain or dipped into salsa, mayonnaise, ketchup or mustard.


The Nevada City Farmers’ Market is as much a social event as it is a place to buy the freshest veggies in the foothills. It’s a gathering to connect with community and food. More than 21 ranchers and farmers from within a 75-mile radius pop up their tents and tables every Saturday morning from June 1 through Nov. 23, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market is in its 12th year and even launched a winter season four years ago (the first and third Saturdays of the month December through May).

Shoppers make their way to the intersection of Union and Commercial streets in downtown Nevada City to pick out the week’s ingredients—everything from Wheyward Girl Creamery cheeses to James Ranch grass-fed lamb and produce galore. There’s also kombucha and fair trade coffee to accompany warm homemade scones, as well as jewelry, home goods and even a mobile bike shop that does repairs on the spot. Take all that, along with the sweet smell of nectarines and pine trees and the sound of the whispering Deer Creek below, and you’ll wish summer would never end.