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Color Your Garden with a Rainbow of Vegetables
Illinois Ag Connection - 08/14/2020

Color is one of the aspects of design that leads to the beautiful garden, but sometimes vegetable gardens lack a variety of hues.

"Thumbing through garden catalogs, you can now find a variety of colorful cultivars," says Bruce Black, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. "These colors come from pigmented phytonutrients."

For example, the phytonutrient lycopene is red and can be found in tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and red cabbage. White vegetables do not develop chlorophyll or pigmented phytonutrients. This is often due to blanching or etiolation, which excludes sunlight to prevent the plant from producing chlorophyll.

"Color can be a great way to get picky eaters, children and adults alike, to try vegetables," Black says. "It can also get people involved in the garden by growing their favorite color."

If you're looking to add some uniquely colorful to your garden, these vegetables are great places to start.

Carrots

Carrots come in shades of orange, red, yellow, purple, and white. Although not a true black, "Black Nebula" is a purple carrot variety that is so high in anthocyanins that it looks black with a lighter purple center.

If you want to take your carrot colors further and have fun, you could plant a themed colorful carrot garden with these cultivars "Black Nebula," "Lunar White," "Atomic Red," and "Solar Yellow."

Peppers

Peppers are known not only for their heat, but also their beautiful colors. Peppers can have shades of green, red, orange, yellow, purple, and white. Most people are familiar with the triad pack of yellow, red, and orange bell peppers at the grocery store, but depending on your heat tolerance, that is just the start of the colors. "Sweet Chocolate" peppers might not taste like chocolate, but they have the glossy brown color of melted chocolate. "Mixed Cayenne" is reminiscent of Mardi Gras colors: purple, red, yellow, and green. These peppers are great for cooking, eating fresh, and they can even be made into a dried colorful cayenne pepper powder.

Cucumbers

In recent years "Lemon Cucumbers" have been more readily available at garden centers. Lemon cucumbers are yellow and have a similar appearance of lemons inside and out. Another unique cucumber is "Poona Kheera." This cucumber is reminiscent of a russet potato at maturity. During growth, it has a white skin that turns into the golden-yellow russeting color. The "Poona Kheera" is also a hardy, disease-resistant, 55-day cucumber.

Whether you are a new gardener or have been gardening for life, splash some new color into your vegetable garden and liven up your next meal.

University of Illinois Extension is the flagship outreach effort of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, offering educational programs to residents of all of Illinois' 102 counties and far beyond. Illinois Extension provides practical education you can trust to help people, businesses, and communities solve problems, develop skills, and build a better future. Through our Agriculture and Natural Resources programs, Illinois Extension supports the economic viability and environmental sustainability of natural and managed landscapes and productive lands in Illinois. Horticulture program educators provide research-based information and training about gardening, fruits and vegetables, flowers, insects and diseases, composting, landscaping, and more.


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