27 Mar 2018

Purple, Prince of fruit and veg

UrbanVegPatch Red Bull brussels sprouts
~ Purple reigns! Red Bull Purple Brussels Sprouts growing in the veg patch ~


Did anyone notice the purple cauliflower purée on the latest series of UK Masterchef?  It was more creamy mauve than purple and judge John Torode said straightaway that he wasn't a fan of the colour; I have to agree, it did not look appealing, but I've read time and again recently that purple veg has  been creeping up to the top of the superfood trend for the past year. I even had purple sweet potato patties at a vegetarian supper club recently which I thought was a novel concept but, blow me down, if I didn't find purple sweet potatoes at the supermarket at the weekend.

So what is it with these so-called superfoods? Personally, I believe that eating any organically grown and freshly harvested food helps to maintain good health but, apparently, the deeper the colour of the food, the greater the nutrients within. Scientists say that purple food contains very high levels of anthocyanins. These powerful anti-oxidants are known to combat free radicals in our bodies thereby boosting our immune systems and, in turn, reducing inflammation, keeping our hearts healthy and helping to fight the ageing process.  It's also been found that regularly eating these foods can reduce the risk of getting high blood pressure and maintain good cholesterol levels.  So far, so fabulous.

However, it has to be said that eating a bowl of purple potatoes is not going balance out any unhealthy eating (hello, cheesy biscuits) but as I already grow - and eat - a rainbow of veg, I thought I'd take a look at which purple veg I've grown in the veg patch, enjoyed, and will grow again.

1. Purple kale. Redbor is a deep red curly kale in the purple spectrum, grown when I trialled several varieties to see which I liked best. I've also grown a Russian kale 'Red Ursa' which is pale green with beautiful purple ribs. Both were very tasty, slightly sweeter and milder than green kale. (Although my must-have kale will always be Cavolo Nero which, btw, is also a superfood.)

2. Purple carrots. I grew these a few years ago as a fun experiment and they were very tasty. Those had an orange core; this year I'm growing Purple Sun which keeps its colour through to the core. All carrots were originally purple like this; orange carrots are a 16th century innovation.

3. As Purple Sprouting Broccoli turns green when cooked, I'm not sure that it counts, same for the purple beans I've grown (Blue Lake, Cosse Violette). I've got seeds for several varieties this year that will, in theory at least, give me a staggered crop from October to April next year.

4. Then there was my all time favourite for both looks and taste, purple brussels sprouts.  (See top photo. Gorgeous.) These were a red ball sprout, the flavour is reckoned to be superior to green sprouts. And if you don't like sprouts, try stir frying them with bacon - you might change your mind.

5. Purple Pacific asparagus, turns green on steaming. Pops up every year and is very delicious but doesn't seem to have multiplied at all - and I think one of the crowns may now be deceased. Last year I had a total of 15 stems over the entire season! Still, mustn't complain, they were very tasty with a poached egg.

6.  Aubergine. So delicious in so many recipes; it's only the skin that's purple but it still counts. Baba Ganoush, anyone?  Last year I grew baby aubergines, this year I have seeds for a compact aubergine 'Pinstripe' which can be container grown on my balcony. The velvety leaves and purple flowers don't look amiss in the flower border either.

7.  Purple Potatoes.  In 2013 I grew a purple skinned, purple fleshed potato called Vitelotte. What I failed to realise was that when you're choosing from over 80 varieties of heritage potato, it pays to make a note of the recommended use. Vitellote was deemed excellent for chips; not realising this, I boiled mine for mash with disastrously sloppy pale mauve results. Five years on and UK seed company Dobies are offering a purple potato that claims to be "ideal for mashing, baking, roasting, microwaving, crisps and chips".  I'm still not entirely sold on the idea of purple mash on my cottage pie, or purple chips, although it would certainly be a talking point.

8.  Beetroot. Sometimes it's red, sometimes almost purple. It was a root vegetable that I couldn't stand until I grew some at the start of the veg patch years, then I learned to appreciate it and now I love it. I just wish I could find the recipe for those little chilli flavoured beets that can be bought in the supermarket! Meantime, there's always beetroot chocolate cake. (Link to my recipe.)

There are two more purple veg that I haven't grown before but I'm intrigued to try this year:

9. Purple Kohl Rabi - hadn't crossed my horticultural horizon until last summer. I now know it's a brassica, similar to a turnip or broccoli stem in flavour, but crunchy, mild and sweet. Apparently the purple is slower to grow than the green but I've ordered seeds and let's see!

10. Purple 'Shiraz' snow peas.  I always have mangetout growing in the veg patch as I use them a lot in cooking but have never grown purple ones before. I expect they taste the same, but with added nutrients, and there's a bonus of lovely bi-coloured flowers!  Plus I can't resist eating the young pods raw.

But the one thing that I haven't grown - and won't be anytime soon - is a purple cauliflower.

So, anyone plumping for purple veg this year?  





10 comments:

  1. My favourite ‘purple’ is red cabbage. We once grew purple cauliflowers but didn’t find them appetising to look at. It’s s pity purple beans lose their colour when cooking as I suppose that negates any benefits.

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    1. I love red cabbage as a slaw although don't grow it because of lack of space. I agree about the purple cauliflower but would happily eat purple beans - cooking anything is supposed to reduce health benefits, but not completely so I think purple beans would still have the advantage.

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  2. The joy of Shiraz purple mange tout is they are easy to pick because they can be seen on the netting. I am enjoying Red Ursa kale currently although it cooks down to green.

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    1. It seems a lot of the purple/red veg changes colour on cooking which is a shame. I like the thought of easy to spot veg; I grew kidney beans for a couple of years, they were a low growing bean and the same colour as the leaves so very difficult to spot!

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  3. I'm not a fan of purple, and of the vegetables listed I only grow beetroot. xx

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    1. And sometimes even the beetroot is golden, I believe! I'm sure it's all healthy, regardless of colour, Flighty. xx

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  4. Gosh, who knew carrots were once purple?!? Struth, the things you learn! I always grow purple potatoes, I must have been lucky as mine are good for chips and mash, forget the variety now.xxx

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    1. But more interestingly, how did they manage to turn purple carrots orange? That's what I want to know! Would love to know if your cooked potatoes keep their purple colour or do they go blue when cooked, Dina? The purple sweet potatoes I ate seemed to hold their colour but it was dark in the restaurant so hard to tell! xx

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  5. I love purple Brussels sprouts. The complex flavor is really a winner for me.

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    1. Oh me too, Sam! I really can't understand why people have such a dim view of brussels sprouts (green or red!); I think they're really tasty, especially when cooked with bacon - yum!! And even better if you've grown your own, of course! :D

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