Have you pledged that 2014 will be a year of healthier choices?

Taking small steps will ensure your success, and the farmers market is one of the best places to get started on those resolutions, with the amazing abundance of California produce at your fingertips.

The stalls are packed with foods that are healthy, fresh and in season. Remember, fresh fruits and vegetables are a key part to a healthy lifestyle, and the more color that your produce has, the greater its health benefits. It is recommended that you eat five to nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day.

The local farmers market also offers you the opportunity to try something new. And the way to maintain healthy eating is to try new things in your diet. As they say, variety is the spice of life.

Try to use the fresh produce that you find in new ways, and learn to eat seasonally as the harvests change. Most local farmers and growers are there because they have a passion for their product.

They have a wealth of information at their fingertips so don't be afraid to ask questions, as this can be a great chance to get new ideas and tips for healthy food preparation.

Not only will you experience the health benefits of eating locally, but you'll also have some fun and learn something new in the process. Let's all have a healthier 2014 by eating fresh and local at the farmers market.

Roasted Baby Root Vegetable Mélange

Rediscover old-fashioned root vegetables like parsnips, turnips, beets and carrots at their seasonal peak right now. They're full of vitamins and minerals, and roasting brings out their natural sweetness.

11/2 cups pearl onions

2 cups baby carrots (1/4 inch of greens left on)

12 ounces baby turnips, peeled (1/4 inch of greens left on) and halved, if large, or regular turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Freshly ground pepper to taste

10 sprigs fresh thyme or lemon thyme

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided

Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add onions and boil for 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Using a sharp paring knife, trim root ends and peel.

Combine the onions, carrots, turnips, oil, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, salt, pepper and thyme sprigs in a large bowl; toss to coat well.

Spread the vegetable mixture in a single layer on a large baking sheet with sides. Roast, turning the vegetables twice, until tender and lightly browned in spots, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl; remove thyme stems. Drizzle with the remaining 1 teaspoon syrup, vinegar and 1 tablespoon parsley; toss to coat. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and serve.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 121 calories; 4 g fat (1 g sat., 3 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 4 g fiber; 417 mg sodium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (240% daily value), vitamin C (50% dv), Potassium (24% dv), Fiber (16% dv).

Farmers markets are open rain or shine.

  • In Livermore, the Sunday market is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. year-round, at South L Street and Railroad Avenue.

  • In Pleasanton, the Saturday market is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. year-round, Main and W. Angela streets.

  • In Danville, the Saturday market is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. year-round, Railroad and Prospect avenues.

  • In San Ramon , the Saturday market is 9 a.m . to 1 p.m. year-round, Bishop Ranch 2 parking lot, Bollinger Canyon Road and Sunset Drive.

    The Time is Ripe is written by Debra Morris, with the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Asso- ciation. Contact her at debramorris@pcfma.com.