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10 Neat Things About Vegetable Colours
by Shauna Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

July 22, 2012

  1. Orange. The many varieties of orange-curd cauliflower on the market now are all descended from a sport-a chance mutation-that was found growing in a farmer's white cauliflower crop in the Holland Marsh, near Bradford, Ontario, in the 1970s. Seeds from the sport were taken to Cornell University, where stable, tasty orange hybrids were developed.
  2. Red. Carrots have been popping up in many colours lately, including red, purple, yellow and white. Orange carrots, however, were not the norm until the 17th century when they became all the rage in the Netherlands. A popular myth is that orange carrots were developed by Dutch botanists to honour William I of Orange, but the story doesn't hold up under deeper digging. (If you don't believe me, check out  for a good survey of evidence.)
  3. Purple. 'Purple Royalty' and other varieties of purple pole beans get their colour from anthocyanin pigments, which are unstable. With certain balances of heat, oxygen and pH, they break down. When you boil your pretty purple beans, they turn green. The same can happen with carrots in the purple-red spectrum.
  4. Blue. The colour of some of the dark blue and purple potatoes is not only skin deep-many have flesh ranging from pink to purple. Although this colouring comes from anthocyanins too, the colour doesn't break down when the potatoes are baked.
  5. Green. Beautiful lime-green Romanesco cauliflower (sometimes called Romanesco broccoli or broccoflower) isn't a new variety at all. It's been in cultivation in Italy for centuries. The pointy spirals of the curd are entrancing and the texture of the vegetable when raw is superb, perfect for a crudités tray.
  6. White. White asparagus is a delicacy in Germany. It is grown by hilling soil over the sprouts as they grow, denying them of sunlight. The spears grow quite fat and are fantastically delicate of taste and texture.
  7. Fuschia. Swiss chard 'Bright Lights', an All Americas Selection for 1998, has stems with fantastic colour. It deserves full credit for reinvigorating chard in the modern mindset.
  8. Pink. Pink peppercorns (okay, not really a vegetable, but a funny colour with an interesting fact) aren't properly pepper (genus Piper) at all. They come from a completely different tree, Schinus terebinthifolius , more closely related to cashews than pepper. And if you pay a fortune for them, you might be miffed to know that they are actually not hard to grow at all in hot desert climates; in fact, they're invasive.
  9. Black. The chilli pepper Capsicum 'Black Pearl' is a real beauty. The leaves are a very deep purple-black, and the fruits are cherry-sized shiny black spheres that turn striking red when ripe. Generally grown as an ornamental, the peppers are extremely hot without being all that tasty.
  10. Yellow. Tomatoes come in a vast variety of colours and sizes (including yellow), with a range of shapes and textures from smooth and even to slightly hairy and deeply ridged. These aren't genetically modified franken-tomatoes but tried and true heirloom varieties that fell out of favour because they didn't keep well for the commercial mass market. Many of the tomatoes have superb flavour, too.


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