Research has shown that many of our health issues are related to our diet. Doctors and health professionals are encouraging us to eat more vegetables for our health. If you have a 2019 resolution to improve your diet, one of the best ways is to add fresh, locally grown vegetables.

Don’t know what to buy? That is not a problem at a local farmer’s market. South Texas is not only home to beautiful citrus, but we grow beautiful vegetables, especially at this time of year. Producers are happy to help you decide on what vegetables you may enjoy. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Growers can also share their favorite method for preparing vegetables and, at the Growing Growers Farmers Market in McAllen’s Firemen’s Park, there is an area filled with recipes for the vegetables and fruits that are in season.

One way to choose vegetables is by their nutritional value. Then decide if it is something you can eat raw, or if the vegetable needs more preparation. Getting the most nutrition from one particular vegetable is often determined by how you prepare your vegetables. We especially want to avoid overcooking vegetables.

Here is where we leave out some of the old methods of cooking vegetables to the point of producing “mush.” I have a childhood memory of telling the difference between broccoli and spinach in the school cafeteria line, by the color of the mush on my plate! Neither was a very pretty vegetable when they were so over cooked and, likely, they had little nutrition left in them. Overcooking vegetables is something we definitely want to avoid if we are going to retain their nutritional value.

To eat a healthy diet, we need a variety of vegetables. No, the vitamin pill is not going to do it, as pills have only one form of a vitamin. Vegetables, on the other hand, have many forms of vitamins to help in many different processes in our bodies.

Greens tend to be high in fiber and have abundant amounts of Vitamin A and C. Kale and turnip tops are high in Vitamin K which is important for eye health and our immune systems. They are also high in potassium, copper, manganese, and Vitamin B6, as well as high in fiber, which support heart health and stabilize blood pressure. Steam, stir fry, or cut up fresh veggies for salads. Cook greens such as kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard and spinach quickly to retain nutrients.

Root vegetables tend to have several compounds that support metabolism along with Vitamin K and potassium, which supports stable blood pressure. The B complex is higher in most root vegetables helping us fight cancers and protect our eyes. These are excellent shaved raw in a salad, used as a replacement for pasta and roasted or stewed. If using them in a stew or soup, add them in the last 45 minutes to avoid overcooking.

Check with your local chamber of commerce for the location of a farmers market in your area. Visit the Growing Growers Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in McAllen at the corner of Business 83 and 1st Street in Firemen’s Park. Be sure to stop at the welcome desk for vegetable recipes.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her garden show every at 7 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV Radio or contact her at [email protected]