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The Garden Scoop

The Garden Scoop is a collection of reflections about the Master Gardeners in Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion.
Jenney veggies

Embracing the Rainbow of Vegetables

By Jenney Hanrahan

Eat your veggies. We've all heard the familiar phrase from our mothers, fathers, teachers etc. As children, many of us actually enjoyed those mounds of greens that appeared regularly on our dinner plate each evening. Others consumed them with the same enthusiasm reserved for math homework. Extending the dinner hour by pushing beans around the plate, cutting them into tiny pieces before swallowing them with milk or dropping them on the floor when parents weren't looking was a skill acquired by children everywhere seeking to avoid anything green or orange and high in vitamins. My younger brother was particularly skilled at this scenario. He could make green beans disappear in a number of ways that did not involve actually ingesting them. Ironically, he grew up to be quite a skilled gardener and spent hours learning how to make vegetables appear rather than disappear.

Whatever your childhood memories may be regarding vegetables there is no denying they have come a long way. This past winter I survived the polar vortex by pouring over seed catalogues in the evening. I was astonished by the sheer number of tomato varieties alone. The longer the winter became the more vegetables seeds arrived in my mail box. I may have gone slightly overboard- does anyone really need twenty varieties of heirloom tomatoes? In February I would have argued a resounding yes!

This past month, the Vermilion County Master Gardeners held their monthly Tuesday Night class on 'Rainbow Veggies'. Educators, Diane Plewa and Leia Kedem presented a thought-provoking program on vegetables. They discussed nutritional value, cooking additives to retain color and flavor, reliable seed sources and even little known facts like… at one time in Europe, the common garden carrot was purple…not orange.

After the program, the attendees were invited to sample roasted blue potatoes, cooked by nutritionist, Kedem and grown by Horticulture educator, Diane Plewa. Master Gardeners contributed variegated basil, red celery, bronze fennel, lemon cucumbers, and a wide variety of tomatoes along with cosmic purple carrots and striped eggplant from their own gardens. Descriptions on how the different varieties fared in the 2014 Vermilion County gardens were provided. The general consensus was that we have left our childhood fear of vegetables behind and embraced the wonderful variety that has become readily available to us year around at our local grocery store, farmers markets and seed catalogues.

Vermilion County Master Gardeners host a program on the second Tuesday of each month. The location is usually Crossroads Christian Church, 3613 N. Vermilion St., Danville at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend. Call the Vermilion Extension office at 217-442-8615 to pre-register or for more information. Cost is usually $5.00. You may register online or at the door. Email Jenney Hanrahan to sign up in advance.

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