The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Pretty, purple and passionately palatable

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

Add more color to our diet. Eat our veggies. I guess potato white and chocolate brown are not what dieticians have in mind. Dark green, red, orange and even purple are found in vegetables that are more than willing to do their part to provide color. Eggplant is not the only veggie with a preponderance of purple. Many other vegetables offer an outlet for a passion for purple.

First a disclaimer, purple is relative in the plant world or at least in the plant naming world. Some purples are so dark they are better described as black. Don't expect all vegetables to be Barney-the-dinosaur purple despite their names. Tomatoes such as 'Cherokee Purple' are more mud puddle purple than pickled eggs purple.

Eggplants are the most diverse in their purpleness. Eggplant 'Barbarella' is a new eggplant variety with very nearly round 4-6 inch diameter fruit. 'Barbarella' is reported to produce plentiful purple fruits with excellent flavor.

For a smaller eggplant at 2-3 ounces 'Pot Black' is also a smaller plant perfect for containers.

Harvest when the fruit is the size of a ping pong ball or wait until it resembles a purple tennis ball. Grow 'Pot Black' next to the grill for a quick addition to your grilled grub.

Many other vegetables known for their usual green color have busted out into the world of purple. You know those long slender beans called haricots or French filet beans served at fancy restaurants? Well now they come in purple with 'Velour' bean. The slim, straight and stringless pods grow to about five inches long with white seeds. The round pods are prolifically produced on compact bushes. The pods are a flashy purple when used raw in salads; however, the pods turn green when cooked.

'Royal Burgundy' is another bush bean with intense purple five-inch long pods. They stand out in salads and on the plant. These pods also turn green when cooked. The plants maintain a passion for purple as the dark green leaves retain a splash of purple.

Kohlrabi is an often overlooked member of the cabbage family; however, plant a purple one in your garden and everyone will take notice. Purple kohlrabi varieties include 'Blaro', 'Early Purple Vienna' and 'Rapid'. Be sure to harvest before the stems reach three inches in diameter or the stems may be tough and woody.

'Graffiti' cauliflower has brilliant purple heads sure to attract attention served raw with dip or as a cooked vegetable. 'Violet Queen' is another purple cauliflower but has more of a broccoli type head.

Move over green asparagus; there is a purple version in town. 'Purple Passion' asparagus produces sweet tender purple spears. I planted some two years ago and the plants were more vigorous than their green counterparts. Just like the green beans they do turn green when cooked.

Tired of orange carrots? Then try 'Purple Haze'. As a past All-America Selections winner 'Purple Haze' combines dark purple skin color with sweet flavor and bright orange interior. Cut in cross section the 7-8 inch tapered roots are stunning on a fresh vegetable plate. Cooking will cause the color to fade.

Tomatillos are popular additions to salsa for salsa verde. Now you can make purple salsa with tomatillo 'Purple'. As an heirloom variety it has one to one and one half inch fruit with a reportedly sweeter flavor than green tomatillos. So does that make it salsa purplish?

Add some 'Deep Purple' bunching onions to your salsa and Barney may come for dinner. The deep red-purple color of 'Deep Purple' onions are highly colored at any temperature or size.

Look to the pleasing palatable world of purple to add color to your plate and plot.

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