• Bunches of purple spring onions are for sale at a farmers market in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, June 8, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite—AP

  • This photo taken Aug. 25, 2009 shows purple beans. A natural group of chemical, called anthocyanins, are what put the purple in purple green beans, as well as the purple in grapes, plums, and, less familiar, purple broccoli. (AP Photo/Lee Reich) Lee Reich—ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • This March 21, 2016 photo shows a variety of white, green and purple asparagus in Concord, N.H. White asparagus is a little milder and more delicate in flavor than the green and purple varieties. (AP Photo/J.M. Hirsch) J.M. Hirsch—AP

  • In this July 30, 2014 photo, sliced beets sit among whole beets in a crate on display at the Wishing Stone Farm stand at a farmers market in Providence, R.I. Across New England, the number of farms has grown by 5 percent since 2007, contrary to the national trend. Farmers and industry experts say the popularity of the "buy local" food movement here has helped create a market for new, small farms. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne—AP

  • This Sept. 29, 2014 photo shows, clockwise from top right, premium red, premium yellow flesh, yukon gold, gourmet purple, gourmet red and eastern russet potatoes in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead) Matthew Mead—AP

  • This March 21, 2016 photo shows a variety of white, green and purple asparagus in Concord, N.H. White asparagus is a little milder and more delicate in flavor than the green and purple varieties. (AP Photo/J.M. Hirsch) J.M. Hirsch—AP

For the Monitor
Published: 4/16/2018 10:44:44 AM

If you are looking to get more nutritional bang for your buck in the vegetable garden this year, look no further than the color purple.

Green is great but purple is better, and exchanging green foods for purple ones not only adds color to your plate but is an easy way to sneak in a little extra nutrition.

Anthocyanins are plant chemicals that give fruits and vegetables purple, red or blue coloration. They occur naturally to protect the plants from sun damage, insects and weather-related stress. In people, they act as antioxidants that have been shown to fight inflammation and viral diseases, prevent obesity and diabetes, promote heart health, improve memory and brain function, and neutralize cancer-causing free radicals.

Even the pickiest eaters can be coaxed into trying the purple version of an “un-favorite” food. Since anthocyanins are water soluble, don’t boil these vegetables; many will lose their color and much of their antioxidant qualities. They are most effective when eaten raw, roasted or briefly steamed.

Try swapping out the regular varieties of these vegetables for more vibrant ones.

Carrots weren’t always orange. The original ones were yellow, white or purple. It wasn’t until the 16th century when an orange carrot turned up as a genetic mutation and was used to breed the orange carrots we are familiar with today. Varieties such as Purple Dragon and Purple Haze are a return to the original carrot’s roots.

Peppers such as Purple Beauty will turn green when cooked, so enjoy them raw in salads. Try Purple Cayenne if you like it hot!

Potato varieties Purple Majesty and All Blue have four times more antioxidants than russet potatoes. Don’t peel them! The skin has a high concentration of anthocyanins.

Asparagus: The spears of Purple Passion have 20 percent more natural sugar than green asparagus making them extra sweet and delicious.

Red onions offer the combination of quercetin and anthocyanins, both powerful inflammation-fighters. Onions are easy to grow from seed, sets or plants. Look for Redwing or Red Wethersfield.

Eggplant: The goodness is in the skin so plant dark purple, tender varieties like Swallow or Orient Express and eat them skin and all.

Peas: Edible-podded Sugar Magnolia peas will keep their color when steamed but are best eaten raw and crunchy. Their dark purple color makes them easy to find on the vine when picking.

Beans such as Royal Burgundy and Royalty Purple are loaded with anthocyanins when raw but will turn green when cooked losing potency.

Beets: 2018 has been named the Year of the Beet by the National Gardening Association, with good reason. This overlooked root vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrition. The greens have more antioxidants than the roots and twice as much potassium. They are one of the healthiest greens you can eat and the roots are loaded with the cancer-fighting phytonutrient betalain which gives them their color. Unlike anthocyanin, betalain is not water soluble and remains stable when the beets are cooked. Beets have been called “veggie Viagra” since they are rich in boron which increases levels of testosterone in men and women. It relaxes and widens blood vessels for greater circulation and blood flow throughout the body. Choose the darkest colored varieties such as Detroit Dark Red or Red Ace for the highest amount of betalain.

These Brassica family members below not only have the health benefits of anthocyanins, they also provide all the cancer-fighting phytonutrients that cruciferous vegetables are known for.

Cabbage: Purple or red cabbages such as Ruby Perfection or Red Express have 36 different types of antioxidants, six times more vitamin A and twice the vitamin C of green varieties.

Cauliflower can be a tough vegetable to get the little ones to eat but not if it is purple! Try Graffiti or Purple of Sicily; they are actually easier to grow than white varieties that need blanching. Super healthy, they have 15 percent more antioxidants than kale!

Brussels sprouts: Red/purple varieties such as Falstaff and Red Rubine are extra sweet and colorful after a few frosts in the fall. Be sure to roast or steam them. Their color will still fade a bit but won’t disappear.

Kale Redbor has rich, purple/red curly leaves that contain twice the antioxidants as Red Russian kale.

This season when shopping for seeds and plants put a little purple in your life and reap the nutritional rewards.

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