It’s a slow Sunday morning. Traffic is quiet and temperatures have dipped below 50 degrees here in Texas, so winter has arrived for the next four days. You’re sipping a piping hot coffee that you waited 20 minutes to brew. At this moment, it dawns on you — you didn’t get your curbside order in early enough, so you’ll have to brave the shops today.
But wait, it’s Sunday! You suddenly remember there’s a fantastic farmer’s market happening just a few blocks from your south Austin bungalow.
“So perfect,” you think, as you grab your reusable canvas tote. You float through the farmer’s market like Belle in the bookstore; sampling the local jars of honey, sniffing the fresh blooms, and singing your way toward the sourdough boules. It’s here in the middle of the micro butcher’s spiel about pork belly that you commit to supporting local farmers, ranchers, and vendors for all (some) of your grocery needs.
Shopping locally — and as a bonus, seasonally — is good for your body, your community, and the environment. So, as we march on into November, it’s time to swap those summer recipes (I know you’re still clinging to your watermelons but let ‘em go dude) for cozy crockpot creations with the freshest produce a Texas winter has to offer.
What foods are in season right now in Texas, and how do they benefit your body? Let me count the (seven) ways:
With a distinctive peppery crunch, arugula is the spiciest of all the leaves. It’s also one of the most nutrient-dense greens out there — full of fiber and phytochemicals. On top of being rich in calcium, potassium, folate, vitamins C, K, and A, arugula is also particularly high in cancer-fighting agents, and even combats bad breath.
How to eat arugula: completely raw in a salad, added on sandwiches or pizza, part of your undoubtedly delicious pesto, or wilted in any of your favorite pasta dishes for some extra zing.
Beets are the quintessential winter root. Loaded with bits from almost all available vitamins and minerals, plus inorganic nitrates and pigments (plant compounds that have a number of unique health benefits) beets are packed with an impressive nutritional profile. Because of their high nitrate concentration, beets provide a blood pressure-lowering, oxygen-boosting, and brain blood flow-supplying effect. These positive impacts make them a popular food among athletes!
How to eat beets: roasted in a root vegetable hash, lightly steamed for salads (must pair with goat cheese), or steamed and pureed for homemade dips and spreads.
Commonly miscategorized as a vegetable, eggplants are actually a fruit! And more specifically — a nightshade. In addition to containing a variety of vitamins and minerals (fiber! Folate! Vitamins A and K!), eggplant is also extremely rich in antioxidants, which help protect the body from free radicals and cellular damage. Interestingly, ongoing studies have shown that eggplants could potentially lower the risk of heart disease and help fight cancer.
How to eat eggplant: if you don’t have two days to make your Italian grandmother’s eggplant parmigiana, try roasted eggplant for risotto, sauteeing as part of a stir fry, or steaming, freezing, and adding to your smoothies.
4. Green Peas
Though they be small, they be mighty. Another commonly miscategorized food — these tiny green balls are not vegetables, but legumes. Green peas pack an impressive nutritional punch — high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins A, C, K, thiamine, manganese, potassium, calcium, folate, iron, phosphorus, and most uniquely, 4g of protein per half-cup! Because of their vitamin and mineral profile, peas are praised for their ability to fight chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer — and also make a great food to eat during pregnancy.
How to eat peas: if you’re dining with my toddler — mixed with macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes, otherwise steam and gently saute peas and add them to just about any savory dish: rice, pasta, or warm salads.
Much like its predecessors in this list, pumpkins are also incredibly nutrient-dense — chock-full of vitamins A, C, E, B-2, potassium, copper, manganese, iron, and small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate and several B vitamins. Pumpkins are also hydrating, as they are 94% water. Like their orange cousin Carrot, pumpkins are high in beta-carotene (which your body turns into Vitamin A) and vitamin C, making these winter squash great for your eyesight, skin, and immune system.
How to eat pumpkin: skinned, seeded, salted and roasted on its own, or blended into soups, sauces, or in sweets (pies, pancakes, muffins, breads).
These crunchy root vegetables deliver a similar kick as their cruciferous cousin, Arugula. Like eggplants, peas, and beets — radishes are rich in antioxidants and possess cancer-fighting properties within their vitamin and mineral profile. Also, radishes can improve digestion, boost immunity and are a natural antifungal.
How to eat radishes: thinly sliced onto salads, diced in your chicken or tuna salad, pickled on sandwiches, or eaten whole and raw with your favorite dips.
You don’t actually think I’d make the last vegetable on this list one that doesn’t boast an impressive nutritional profile, did you? Both turnip bulbs and their greens are packed with vitamins and minerals, and deepen the list of free radical-fighting foods. Full of calcium, phosphorus, folate, fiber and Vitamin C — with turnip bulbs containing 30% of your daily value of vitamin C, and their greens containing 115% of your daily value of vitamin K — turnips in their entirety are incredible for your skin, blood, immune system, and bones.
How to eat turnips: roasted with other root vegetables for a hearty side dish or hash, mashed in with your potatoes, sliced thin and baked into chips.
For a full list of foods that are in season this fall/winter, check out the Texas Farmers’ Market comprehensive list or enjoy hovering around this produce wheel to find what’s in season — but in a more fun way. If you’re ready to dabble in the magic of Texas Farmers Markets, use the USDA’s directory function to find the one nearest you.