Rainbow of color in the garden - photo by S. Cochran

Color Your Garden Rainbow

submitted by Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Educator

If you're just a little bit bored with the same old round, red tomatoes, beets and radishes; or green snap beans, lettuce and zucchini squash, then liven up your garden with vegetables of a different color this year.

Most seed catalogues offer a widening variety of vegetables in unconventional colors and shapes. Though you probably don't want to give up all your old favorite standard varieties, you might want to try some of these novel varieties for a change of pace. Browsing through a selection of seed catalogues can turn up such fun vegetable surprises as those listed below.

Golden beets

  • 'Burpee's Golden' beets taste delicious and golden colored flesh. Their greens are excellent cooked or in salads. (TCG, VBSC)

Multicolored carrots and radishes

  • 'Kaleidoscope Mix' carrots combines five vibrant colors – red, purple, yellow, white and orange - for a dazzling rainbow effect sure to be noticed at the dinner table. (TCG)
  • 'Park's Beauty Blend' radishes mixes 5 varieties to give you peppery-crisp globes in brilliant purple, yellow, scarlet, pink and white. (PS)

White cucumbers

  • 'Crystal White Pickler Hybrid' produces bright white fruits with a crisp texture and sweet flavor. Early fruit production on these semi-bush plants. Cucumbers can be harvested small as baby gherkins or full sized. (PS)

Orange cauliflower

  • 'Cheddar Hybrid' cauliflower produces a glowing orange head, as a result of 25 times higher beta-carotene content than white cauliflower. Keep the heavy 4 to 7 inch heads untied for brightest color. (PS)

Purple asparagus, kohlrabi, and cauliflower

  • 'Sweet Purple' asparagus is higher in sugar and more tender than green asparagus types. Additional purple asparagus cultivars include 'Purple Passion' and 'Pacific Purple'. (VBSC, PS)
  • 'Early Purple Vienna' kohlrabi produces an apple-like bulb with mild delicate flavor. The outer skin is purple, but the inner flesh is creamy white with a crisp texture. (TCG, VBSC)
  • 'Graffiti' cauliflower produces big flavorful heads that deepen to purple in bright sun. When cooked, the heads turn mauve. Plants are vigorous and downy mildew resistant. (PS)

Red basil

  • 'Red Rubin' basil has large smooth leaves and grows to a full, dense plant. (PS, TCG)
  • 'Crimson King' basil features brightly colored red foliage, with big flavorful Genovese-type leaves. (PS)

Another way to spice up the garden is with less commonly grown crops, such as peanuts, okra, popcorn, Indian corn, broom corn, ornamental gourds, garlic, leeks, shallots and horseradish. Broom corn, Sorghum bicolor, produces corn-like kernels on a "tassel" or broom-like seed head. It's used primarily as an ornamental for fall decorations or dried arrangements.

Oriental vegetables are another possibility. As stir-frying has become popular, more catalogs are offering a selection of Oriental vegetables well suited to this use.

When trying new or odd varieties think small. Try one or two, or maybe three, new things per year, if you have space. Plant them in additional to your favorite standard varieties, so you don't risk your entire harvest if yield or quality is poor. If you find something you really like, you can enlarge your planting next year.

Seed Sources:

  • The Cook's Garden (TCG), www.cooksgarden.com
  • Park Seed (PS), parkseed.com
  • Vermont Bean Seed Company (VBSC), vermontbean.com

This resource was added February 2015 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. The photo is being used with permission by Bugwood.org - photo by Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement

The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

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