Eat Your (Purple) Fruits and Vegetables

Mom told you to eat your veggies. Make antioxidant-rich purple foods part of that healthy diet.

Photo By: W. Atlee Burpee Company

Photo By: AP Whaley Seed Co/National Garden Bureau

Photo By: W. Atlee Burpee Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: W. Atlee Burpee Company

Photo By: VisitWinstonSalemn.com

Photo By: W. Atlee Burpee Company

Photo By: Seeds By Design/National Garden Bureau

Photo By: W. Atlee Burpee Company

Kale 'Scarlet'

Nutritionists tell us to eat a rainbow of foods, so put some purple on your plate. Many purple foods are high in antioxidants thought to control or prevent certain kinds of cell damage. Toss 'Scarlet’ kale into salads, soups and stir-frys, or sautee or braise it. For eating fresh, pick the frilly, reddish-purple leaves when they're young.

Tomato 'Indigo Cherry Drops'

Cooking leaches out the antioxidants in most foods, but it increases the concentration of these healthful substances in tomatoes. 'Indigo Cherry Drops’ tomatoes are small fruits with a purplish-black cast on their red skins. The plants are indeterminate and bear heavily in about 65 days.

Concord Grapes

Bluish-purple Concord grapes are high in antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, and the American Optometric Association says these substances can reduce your risk of eye diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Snack on fresh grapes or turn them into delicious jellies, juices and pies. Concord vines are hardy in USDA Zones 5-8.

Asparagus 'Purple Passion'

Gourmet chefs say 'Purple Passion’ asparagus has a mild, nutty flavor when cooked, but thanks to this variety’s higher-than-usual sugar content, it tastes sweet when eaten fresh. These smoky-purple spears are a great source of anthocyanins (pigments with antioxidant properties that give fruits and vegetables their purple, red or blue colors). Plant asparagus where you want it to stay; these perennial plants can grow for 20 years or more.

Eggplant 'Patio Baby'

No space for a big garden? Grow dwarf varieties of your favorite purple foods. Eggplant 'Patio Baby produces small fruits early in the season and bears all summer. The plants top out at 16-20" high, so they’re ideal for containers or small areas. In eggplants, the antioxidants are found in the skins, which are best eaten when the fruits are young. As the eggplants age, the skins turn tough and bitter.

Cauliflower 'Depurple Hybrid'

Cauliflower 'Depurple Hybrid’ is a relatively new variety with a slightly nutty, buttery flavor. Like many other purple vegetables, its color comes from anthocyanins, pigments with antioxidant properties. Cauliflowers grow best in cool weather and need full sun with moist, rich soil. To keep the purple florets from losing their color when you cook them, toss them lightly with lemon juice or vinegar.

Radishes

You'd have to eat lots of purple radishes to get significant health benefits, but these crunchy roots are high in fiber and vitamin C (researchers say there may be thousands of antioxidant substances, and vitamins C and E and beta-carotene are among the best). If you're not fond of their peppery bite, opt for milder varieties like 'Purple Plum’ or 'Violet de Gournay’, a French heirloom that grows to 10" long. These radishes come from the Cobblestone Farmers' Market in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Broccoli 'Purple Sprouting'

'Purple Sprouting’ broccoli is an English heirloom with small, purple-tinted florets and greenish-purple leaves. Start this variety in early spring or, if your growing season is long, sow the seeds in fall, let them overwinter, and harvest the following spring. Studies show purple broccoli varieties have more antioxidants than green varieties. Microwaving the florets instead of boiling them helps preserves them.

Carrot 'Black Nebula'

Even when it’s cooked, this near-black carrot, which is loaded with antioxidants, holds its color (it's actually dark purple). Rather drink your vitamins instead? Juice 'Black Nebula' carrots for a purplish beverage. A squeeze of lemon juice will turn it pink. Even the flower clusters on these carrots have a touch of lavender.

Strawberry 'Purple Wonder'

Pile them on shortcakes, cook them into jams and jellies, or pop them into your mouth while they're still warm from the sun. Strawberries are packed with antioxidants, and studies have shown that our bodies can absorb them within an hour after we've ingested them. 'Purple Wonder’ is the first-ever purple strawberry. Space these June-bearing plants 10-12" apart.

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