Purple vegetables are rich in anthocyanins, an antioxidant that gives the red, blue, and purple pigment to plants. Anthocyanins are known to fight free radical damage at the cellular level, offering antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer benefits. Getting more purple vegetables in your garden and into your meals is an easy way to increase the nutrition and health of your daily meals.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking through seed catalogs and seed websites this week and I noticed something very positive. Just like ultra-violet is the Pantone colour of the year for fashion and home, the seed catalogs have more purple, black, and deep red vegetables (and flowers) than I’ve seen before. This is great news for the home gardener and market grower who wants to have some unusual, vibrantly colored, and healthy veggies for meals and for sale.
Those red, blue, black, and purple vegetables are all high in antioxidants called anthocyanins, just like blueberries and bilberries. And that makes them super healthy for you. When you choose a purple carrot over an orange or white carrot, you are growing (and eating) a superfood carrot. And the deeper that purple colour goes to the core of the vegetable, the more anthocyanin antioxidants the food contains and the healthier it is.
These anthocyanins scavenge free radicals from your body and help your body repair itself and stay healthier. Just like bilberries and blueberries are proven to improve vision health, even so, the red, blue, and purple vegetables and fruit that you eat strengthen your body and restore you at the cellular level. And in most cases, it’s as simple as growing a purple carrot in place of an orange carrot, or growing red leaf lettuce instead of green iceberg lettuce, or a black tomato instead of a red tomato.
Many vegetable seeds are priced like precious metals — several dollars for just a few seeds. Hybrid seeds are usually more expensive than open-pollinated varieties. Both will give you vegetables for your table.
Vegetable seeds are usually less expensive by weight if you purchase in larger packages — enough for several years of gardening. But seeds being living organisms, tend to lose viability in storage over a period of time. Read More in our article How to Save Money Buying Vegetable Seeds.
Here are a few purple vegetables to try
Once you make the choice in the seed catalog the rest is easy. Here are some of the purple veggies I put on my seed list this season. Maybe a few of these will work for you too.
From the Bakercreek Seed Catalog (no affiliation) (USA, Ships to Canada):
Scarlet Kale (#KA116)
Red Ursa Kale (#KA109) This one’s so pretty!
Black Nebula Carrots (#CR137)
Gniff Carrot (purple and yellow) (#CR133)
Red Rubin Brussel Sprouts (#BS106)
Purple beans and purple podded peas
Red Leaf Lettuces like Merlot (#LT158) and Mascara, an oak leaf type (#LT131)
Black Beauty Tomato (#TX125)
Cosmic Purple Carrot Seeds (CR112)
From William Dam Seed Company (no affiliation)(Canada only.)
Graffiti (F1) Cauliflower (#1731)
Mizuna Red Frills
Peppermint Swiss Chard
Red Rubin Basil (#468)
Johnny’s Select Seed (USA but ships to Canada) (no affiliation)
- Deep Purple (F1) Carrot
- Dark Purple Mizuna
- Purple Passion (F1) Asparagus
- Graffiti (F1) Cauliflower
- Red Dragon (F1) Chinese Cabbage
- Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope Mix (F1) a hybrid cross between Brussels sprouts and kale
- Indigo Cherry Drops Tomato
While some of the red and purple vegetables are heritage varieties that are making a comeback, a lot of them are also new selections of old favorites, improved for uniformity, color, or other traits.
Don’t be afraid to choose hybrid seed (marked as F1 or F2). Hybrid seed is a seed that has been bred between two known parents and is not genetically modified. Hybrid seed can be grown in an organic garden. But if you plan to save the seed choose open-pollinated varieties over F1 hybrids. Hybrids rarely come true from seed the following season.
What about beets?
Beets, chard, orach, and quinoa can be deep red and purple and when they are deeply colored they are also rich in antioxidants, but the antioxidants in beet family plants come from betalain pigments instead of anthocyanins. Betalains are also healthy antioxidants. So be sure to include some of these plants in deep reds, purples, and blues as well, in your garden plans.
Even potatoes like Russian blue, and rice like forbidden rice, can be rich in anthocyanins and therefore be healthier for you. So switch out a few of your usual selections for some deep purple, blue, and red choices, matching days to maturity, so you know they’ll do well in your garden, too. It’s an easy hack to help you stay healthier.
Do you need help with your seed starting? Read the article 15 Easy Steps to Start Seeds the Right Way and the Secret Sauce For Stronger Plants and get my secret sauce for healthy plants from seed.
I hope this little tip helps you have an exciting and productive garden this year by adding more blue and purple vegetables to your garden beds.
Which red, blue, and purple vegetables are you planting to grow in 2019?