Add colour to the vegetable garden and table this year by planting different coloured vegetables. Vegetables need not be the same color as sold in the produce aisle of the grocery store. Bing a different color doesn’t mean they have been genetically modified, some are revisited heritage varieties while others are the result of selective breeding.
Carrots, with thin white roots grow wild in many temperate climates. The first known domestic carrot is thought to be grown in the 10th century with either white or purple roots. As the carrot evolved carrots turned yellow then orange in the 16th century.
Each variety of orange carrot tends to have a slightly different, shape, size, taste as well as growth rate the same can be said about the colored varieties. Purple carrots tend to grow slower than the orange ones. Eat white carrots when they are small as they larger ones tend to become woody and go to seed given a long season and heat. The yellow carrots are more on par with the orange varieties.
Beets were originally cultivated for their top growth as the roots were long, yellow and thin. It wasn’t until the 17th century that plants were bred to contain the red pigment. At present time it is possible to plant beets that are white, red, golden or red and white striped. The pure red beets add color to everything they touch and are often used as dye. The other beets do not bleed or stain. Be sure to harvest the beets at the appropriate size as some varieties become woody when they grow too large.
Swiss Chard is a close relation to the beet. Instead of being bred to produce a nice round tasty root, Chard plants were selected to grow large tasty leaves. Classic Swiss Chard has white stems but it is also possible to grow Swiss Chard yellow, gold, pink, crimson, orange purple and green and white striped stems.
Yellow tomatoes are making an inroad into the produce market but the red tomato is still dominate. Plant a few heritage tomato plants and find that the ripe tomatoes can be different colors from very dark red, to pink, orange, yellow, green or a bi-color. Each variety has their own unique taste.
Potatoes that are commonly in the produce aisle are red skinned white flesh, white potatoes have brown skin white flesh and yellow potatoes have brown skin and yellow flesh. The red and white potato have been the mainstay for many years with the yellow Yukon Gold being a relatively newcomer on the market. Other varieties of potatoes have been grown in different pockets of the country for generations and are now available as heritage potatoes.
Russian Blue, blue fleshed potatoes were planted by the fur traders at Fort Rocky Mountain House where they would grow all summer without any care or attention and be harvested by the men in the fall. Pugh’s Purple have a light purple skin with dark eyes and purple streaked white flesh are another hardy variety.
Scientist have added to the color choices by breeding ones that have a deep purple flesh as well as ones with red or pink flesh. By increasing the color they increased the nutritional value of the potato making it a healthier product.
When think of planting different potatoes do not forget the fingerlings that grow long and thin as opposed to the thick oblong tubers. The flesh of these thin tubers may be white, yellow or blue.
These are just a few of the different varieties of unique vegetables that are available for vegetable gardens. Plant at least one uniquely colored vegetable to add the color to the garden and table.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org