A vegetable of a different color
By Dawn Pettinelli - UConn Home & Garden Education Center
Featured Article - posted Wed., Apr. 11, 2012
While that great, fresh-from-the-garden taste is behind many home gardeners’ decisions to grow their own vegetables, another great reason for doing so is visual sustenance. If you have not gone through some of the seed catalogs or even in-store seed displays in recent years, you will be pleasantly surprised at the ever-growing number of vegetable varieties. Many not only offer a pleasing taste, but also beautiful, new and intriguing colors.
Take sweet peppers, for example. Not very long ago a visit to the grocery store produced mostly immature green peppers. Now red peppers abound and yellow, orange and even purple, white and chocolate-colored peppers can be purchased, or better yet, grown in your own backyard.
‘Graffiti’ is a neon purple cauliflower that keeps its color when cooked and matures in 75 days. Combine it with the lime green heads of ‘Harmony’ or the peachy-colored heads of ‘Cheddar.’ These colored cauliflowers do not need their leaves tied over the heads like the white varieties do. Cooked or served raw with a vegetable dip, these colorful florets are sure to get noticed.
Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ was a 1992 All America Selections winner. The tasty leaves had stems of brilliant red, orange and yellow. If you are more of a monochromatic gardener, try out ‘Orange Fantasia,’ ‘Pink Lipstick’ or ‘Rhubarb.’ I use the tender, young, bright stalks in salads and for stir-fries.
Yellow carrots will also brighten up meal times. ‘Amarillo’ is an 8-inch-long, lemon-yellow carrot that is sweet and juicy and retains its flavor when cooked. ‘Rainbow Hybrid’ produces a harvest of yellow, cream, white, apricot and orange-colored roots. They are not different varieties but natural variations of the same carrot hybrid. ‘Purple Haze’ carrots have a bright orange core surrounded by dark violet flesh. ‘Atomic Red’ is a red carrot that contains very high amounts of the antioxidant lycopene. Actually, back 10 centuries or so, all carrots were red or white. Orange carrots did not appear until the 1500s. ‘Kuttiger’ is an older white carrot that grows 6 to 8 inches long. It has a mild flavor and is quite a good keeper.
‘Crescent Moon’ is an all-white eggplant, while ‘Ravena’ produces long, slender fruits of a light green. Fruits of ‘Lavender Touch’ are white but sport a lovely, lavender blush. I think they look too beautiful to eat. A recent reintroduction, ‘Turkish Orange’ will yield dozens of small, orange-red fruits that reportedly are best eaten when still green.
We are all familiar with yellow, white and bicolored sweet corn, but how about a deep red? ‘Ruby Queen’ is a hybrid sweet corn maturing in about 75 days with 8-inch ears. This variety retains its burgundy coloration even when cooked. Sapphire blue kernels are found on heirloom corn, ‘Dwarf Blue Jade.’ It is a late variety, only reaching 2 and one half feet with 4- to 5-inch ears. The color changes to jade green when cooked. I have not tried either of these, so I can’t comment on the taste.
For interesting eating and decorating, grow some white pumpkins. The flesh is still the same orange color. ‘Lumina’ grows quite large and is perfect for carving or pies. ‘Baby Boo’ produces cute little 3-inch pumpkins that are ideal for fall decorations.
Tomatoes, too, come is a rainbow of colors. Orange ‘Sun Gold’ is the best-tasting cherry tomato I have ever grown. ‘Persimmon’ is an open-pollinated heirloom that is big and yellow. ‘Snow White’ will give you very pale yellow, almost white, tomatoes with a sweet, fruity flavor. For and interesting salad, add ‘Green Grape’ tomatoes. This cherry tomato is tart but pleasing. ‘Black Plum’ is from Russia. The mahogany brown fruits have a rich tomato taste and are resistant to cracking.
When choosing vegetables to grow this year, select a few colorful varieties to brighten up your garden and also your meal. If you have questions on growing or selecting vegetables or on any other home and garden topic, call, toll-free, 877-486-6271, visit the website www.ladybug.uconn.edu, or contact your local Cooperative Extension Center.