Did you know that you can now grow many of your favourite vegetables in really weird and wonderful colours? We all tend to expect our carrots to be orange, our cauliflowers to have white or cream curds, our beans to be green and our beetroot to be red or dark pink, but today there are a huge array of colours these vegetables can also be grown in, and in some cases rather than just being a novelty, the unusual coloured varieties have higher vitamin contents and better flavour than the conventional crops. In this article I intend to introduce you to just some of the many beautiful and unusual coloured vegetables that you might want to consider growing this coming season either instead of, or as well as the varieties of those vegetables that you normally grow.
Carrots as we know are usually orange, but varieties are available in such exciting colours as purple, white, red etc.
Deep Purple F1, a dark purple carrot both on the inside and the outside, a nice mild flavour and uniform shaped roots.
Purple Haze F1, a delicious hybrid purple carrot with an orange centre, boasting a vigorous growth habit.
Purple carrots have more beta carotene than orange carrots, and get their pigment from anthocyanins. These act as powerful antioxidants, grabbing and holding on to harmful free radicals in the body.
Anthocyanins help prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting and are effective anti inflammatory agents.
Rainbow F1, again a delicious variety that come in an array of colours.
Yellowstone, a pale yellow, easily grown carrot, and great for bunching.
Yellow carrots contain xanthophylls and lutene, pigments similar to beta carotene, which help develop healthy eyes aid in the fight against macular degeneration and may prevent lung and other cancers and reduce the risk of astherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Black Knight, black carrots are very rare thesedays.
Black carrots contain anthocyanins, part of the flavonoid family with antioxidant properties. Flavonoids are being investigated as possible anticancer compounds, as well as inhibitors of LDL (the bad) cholesterol.
Creme de Lite F1, a creamy skinned sweet carrot that is fabulous either raw or cooked, plus has the advantage of not requiring any peeling.
White carrots contain health promoting substances called phytochemicals, naturalbioactive compounds found in plant foods that work with nutrients and dietary fibre to protect against disease.
Samurai, a red skinned Japanese carrot with sweet pink inner flesh that holds its colour after cooking and has a root length of up to 28cm.
Red carrots are tinted by lycopene, (another form of carotene). Lycopene is associated with the reduced risk of macular degeneration, serum lipid oxidation, helps prevent heartdisease and a wide variety of cancers including prostate cancer.
How would you fancy trying a purple cauliflower, an orange one or even a green one with turrets instead of the usual, predictable, slightly lumpy white curds? Do you have a problem persuading your children to even consider eating cauliflower? Perhaps if you encouraged your children to have a go at growing their own cauliflowers, and allowed them to select lots of colourful varieties, they would be far more inclined to actually give eating them a go. Take a look at these and see if I can tempt you to try them out.
Purple Graffiti F1, is a tasty variety either raw or cooked. The purple colour is due to Anthocyanins – useful sources of antioxidants.
Cheddar F1, Aptly named, Cauliflower Cheddar F1 Hybrid produces stunning yellow-orange heads containing a high level of beta carotene.
Sunset F1, is a delicious orange cauliflower with a semi-upright habit.
Trevi F1, is an unusual light green, attractive and fine flavoured cauliflower.
Celio F1, also has green heads, the difference being that the curds form exquisite pointed turrets.
Lazio F1, is another green variety, deliciously flavoured and forming spectacularly shaped pyramidal heads.
Romanesco-Veronica, a green variety increasing in popularity. Cauliflower Veronica produces individual florets with lovely spirals giving a magical appearance.
All coloured cauliflowers have one important thing in common, their colour is due to anthocyanins which are an excellent source of antioxidants to mop up the free radicals in your body. All cauliflowers are ideal for slimmers as they are low in calories and high in vitamin C.
When cooking purple cauliflowers add a little lemon juice to the water to retain the colour.
We are all used to seeing French beans in the shops, and we even tend to choose green varieties to grow at home, which is a shame when there are other interesting and exciting colours to try.
Golden Gate, a climbing, flat podded French Bean that produces a heavy crop of white seeded beans over a long growing season.
Borlotto Firetongue, an Italian dwarf French bean used extensively in Minestrone soups or dried as haricot beans. The flat pods are extremely eye catching with their mottled red colouring and can be eaten whole as a French Bean if harvested young.
Purple Teepee, another dwarf French bean, which produces attractive, round, dark purple pods with an excellent flavour. The pods do turn green when cooked though
Valdor, a bright yellow dwarf French bean that has a long cropping period and good virus resistance.
Beetroot are known for their dark pink/red flesh and their versatility as a food either included in a salad freshly cooked or pickled, made into a soup, or eaten as a meaty vegetarian sandwich filling. Even their leaves can be eaten if you cook them in much the same way as spinach. Take a look at a couple of varieties here that may look a little different but still maintain the wide range of uses and excellent flavour of the traditional coloured varieties.
Burpee’s Golden, a variety that has been hard to obtain for some years due to limited seed supply, but they are back now with light pink skin on the outside and bright yellow flesh in the centre.
Tonda Di Chioggia, (Bietola Da Orto), an unusual Italian beetroot, pink skinned with sweet flesh that has the unusual quality of having red and white stripes forming rings when sliced and viewed in cross section.
Albina Ice, A truly white beetroot that does not bleed when cut. Excellent flavour and texture.
Albina Vereduna, A white beetroot means no smudging or bleeding. Beetroot Albina Vereduna is much more acceptable as a vegetable with fish or poultry and adds variety and flavour far exceeding red beetroot available today.
Beetroot are known to boost the bodies immune system, and have roots rich in potassium and folate, plus vitamin C. The tops are high in beta carotene, iron and calcium.
Boiling beetroot can actually increase the nutrient value whereas pickling will reduce it.
Leaf Beet is a spinach like vegetable packed with vitamin A that is delicious eaten either raw or cooked. Most varieties are plain green with pale coloured stalks, but take a look at this variety.
Bright Lights, the most attractive of all leaf beets and easy to grow. Features stems of many colours including gold, pink, orange, purple, red and white, with bright and pastel variations. Lightly savoy coloured green or bronze leaves. Stunning bunched, and baby leaves are a natural salad mix. The taste is milder than ordinary chard, with each colour a bit different.
Asparagus is a luxury vegetable that is expensive to buy in the shops, yet it is surprisingly easy to grow in your own garden, where a couple of rows can produce pounds of Asparagus for up to 10 years. This tasty vegetable is packed with vitamins A, C and E and is delicious served raw with dips or gently steamed. Asparagus spears are usually green but there are alternatives such as:
Stewarts Purple, a variety that is significantly sweeter than even the sweetest green varieties. The spears have less fibre and are extremely tender with virtually no wastage at the base. They also have the advantage of retaining their colour after steaming.
Purple Passion Asparagus, has tender spears that are a beautiful, deep burgundy colour with a creamy green interior, tight buds and a rounded tip. This variety shows superior disease resistance and fine production of medium-sized yields. When cooked, it develops a rich yet mild nutty flavor and a paler purple color.
Sweet Purple, are a larger and more tender option to green asparagus. They have a gorgeous mild, nutty flavor when cooked—20% higher sugar content than green varieties makes Sweet Purple delicious even raw! Spears turn green when cooked.
So many children refuse to eat their Brussels sprouts, and loads of adults feel much the same way. The sad thing is that fresh sprouts taste completely different to the bitter tasting frozen ones. If you want to really persuade your children to give sprouts another try, then perhaps the answer is to offer them a sprout of a different colour to what they are used to.
Red Delicious, a red sprout that is a vast improvement on the older varieties, even holding its colour after cooking. This variety produces flavoursome, quality sprouts.
Falstaff, A novelty purple-red sprout, adding a touch of colour to your plate. Brussels Sprout Falstaff matures over a long period, and has a milder, nuttier flavour than standard green types. The colour develops great intensity after a hard frost, and is retained when the sprouts are cooked, steamed or microwaved.
Tozer Selection, an old fashioned alternative that has a distinct nutty flavour better than any other. Serve raw in salads or steam like any other variety. Bright crimson red Winter sprouts!
Courgettes (Zucchini) are high in vitamins A, C and E and taste delicious when either grilled, stir fried or lightly boiled. Generally varieties are a uniform dark green colour, but there are other colours available such as:
San Pasquale, a tasty and nutritious variety featuring light green stripes on a dark green background.
Cavili F1, a pale green variety able to fertilise without insect pollination, and continue cropping regardless of adverse weather conditions and poor light.
One Ball F1, A unique variety producing round, tennis ball sized, yellow skinned, fruits with scrumptious creamy flesh.
Parador F1 Hybrid, Attractive, shiny, golden yellow, cylindrical courgettes of excellent flavour. Courgette Parador is early maturing and prolific cropping throughout the summer.
Orelia F1, A heavy cropping, golden yellow courgette, delicious sliced in stir fries or on barbecue kebabs.
Spring Onions (Scallions)
We are used to the crisp white flesh of the bulb of a spring onion (scallion), and we don’t tend to see any other colours for sale in the shops, so we have no reason to give them a try unless we grow them ourselves.
Lilia, is a red spring onion high in dietary fibre, low in calories and packed with essential vitamins and minerals.
Deep Purple, Naturally larger bulbed than other spring onions, Deep Purple produces violet-purple torpedo-shaped onions, perfect for use in salads or stir fries. They have a good flavour without being too ‘hot’.
Any type of onion is incredibly good for you, proven to be anti-asthmatic, anti-bacterial, antiseptic, capable of lowering both blood pressure and cholesterol.
Radish Nero Tondo Black Spanish Radish, the Black Spanish Round Radish dates back to the 16th century and features stunning black roots with a crispy milky white interior. The roots are a globe shaped, reach 3″ to 4″ across and feature a crispy white flesh with a pungent, peppery taste, that becomes milder when larger.
Radish Daikon Mino Early Japanese White Radish or Mooli, Mino Early is a long-time favourite of Japanese Daikon radish. Its white flesh is very crispy and tender with mild pungency.
White Icicle, also known as ‘White Naples’, ‘White Italian’ and ‘White Transparent’ is an heirloom variety of white radish with crisp, mild, white flesh, which grows 6 inches long and requires very loose, deeply cultivated soil.
Of course there are many other vegetables that we are more used to seeing in different colours, such as lettuces, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, onions, potatoes and even cucumbers, but probably because we see these readily available in our local supermarkets we don’t think anything of it.
I hope that after reading this article you will be motivated to try and grow a few more unusually coloured vegetables of your own, especially the lesser known ones such as those I have included here. Why not add a few new colours to your families dinner plates and make your food more interesting, plus tempting those fussy children to look at vegetables in an exciting new light!