The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

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Pretty, purple and passionately palatable

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator
slmason@illinois.edu

Add more color to our diet. Eat our veggies. I doubt chocolate brown and potato chip beige are what dieticians have in mind. Dark green, red, orange and even purple vegetables 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 present passage into the 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 egg purple.

Eggplants are the most diverse in their purpleness. 'Patio Baby' is a very early eggplant, productive throughout the season and at a compact 10-24 inch height it's perfect for patios. The deep purple egg shaped fruit lack prickles on leaves and stems for a child-friendly plant. Grow 'Patio Baby' next to the grill for a quick addition to your grilled grub.

Eggplant 'Hansel' was bred by an eggplant lover. Two annoying eggplant characteristics, large seeds and bitterness, are bred out of 'Hansel', a past All-America Selections Winner. Young 'Hansel' eggplants develop very few seeds and it doesn't have to be peeled to lessen the bitter taste. Despite the recommendation on the internet to select boy eggplants to lessen seeds and bitterness, boy eggplants do not exist. In plants or people, only females have babies. 'Hansel' fruits remain tender when harvested from 3 to 10 inches in length, offering a long harvest time.

Many other vegetables known for their traditional 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'.

'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 productive purple spears. 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.

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Tomatillos are popular additions to salsa and to make salsa verde. Now you can create purple salsa with tomatillo 'Purple'. As an heirloom variety it has 1 to 1.5 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 dinner plate and garden plot.

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