Everyone’s growing their own vegetables these days. It’s the most popular trend in Eco-friendly gardening and one that pays back with delicious food that can even be decorative in the garden. In warm-winter climates you can grow healthy, tasty edibles all year round. There are so many colorful hybrids in fruits and vegetables these days you don’t have to settle for the ordinary. If you want something different check out all the fruits and vegetables that offer not only good eating, but an ornamental rainbow of hues. Some can be bought as started plants. All can be planted from seed.
Color schemes from the hues of fruits and vegetables can add an extra element of design to the garden. They can be used to edge an ordinary vegetable plot with something ornate or to add consumables into a flower bed. And, of course, there are endless possibilities in the kitchen for interesting and colorful fresh foods.
- Carrots can be grown in reds, purples, whites and yellows as well as oranges.
- Beets offer reds, deep purples, pinks, whites and golden yellows as well as varieties ringed with white. Even the leaves are edible.
- Radishes can be found long and short, round and tapered; red, white, black, white and pink. These fast-growing vegetables can be grown year round in our gardens.
- For truly glamorous leaves look for the colors of chard in varieties of ‘Bright Lights’. Expect to find stems and veins in hot pink, brilliant scarlet, fluorescent yellow, rich orange and soft white. Chard grows well right through the winter so you can start planting them at any time from now on.
- Cabbages offer varieties with smooth or curly leaves, blue tints, reds, purples and an assortment of greens. Plant these starting next month for a cool season crop. They’ll start heading up in springtime and crop into next summer.
- Cauliflower is no longer limited to white. Try orange, green or purple varieties that will also enjoy the cooler months of our winters.
Look for showy flowers on edibles, too. With our mild climate, we can keep the kitchen supplied with fresh-grown food every month of the year. Some of the flowers are edible or make colorful garnishes for culinary delights as well as adding interest to the garden itself.
- Look for climbing beans that flower in red, pink, purple or white. Tall-growing beans can decorate an attractive trellis. These are a warm season crop and don’t much appreciate frost.
- Peas are cool-season climbers that can grow from eighteen inches tall to five or six feet high. They are perfect to decorate fences or cover unattractive surfaces with delicate green leaves and blooms that look like sweet peas.
- Fava bean plants sport white flowers with a big black blotch on each bloom. They flower in masses that are both decorative and unusual. Big beans are tasty in many Mediterranean dishes. Peas and beans are in the legume family and affix nitrogen into our hungry soils. You can plant seeds in the autumn through winter.
- Asparagus peas are low-growing spreading plants with bright little red flowers and long, winged seed pods that are nourishing and tasty. If you want to try something truly unusual in your garden, grow these plants. They make pretty ground covers in the garden and offer flavorful vegetables that will become a conversation piece at the dinner table. I’ve found they grow better in cool temperatures.
- Onions and chives are easy to grow. They are bulbous plants. Chives have very small bulbs that clump together whereas bulb onions grow into the large globes we use all the time for cooking. Plants in the onion family tend to bloom with clustered or spherical groups of flowers in pinks, greens, whites and lavenders. They can be very ornamental when blooming. If kept watered, onions and chives will flourish even in inland gardens despite hot, dry summers. Most varieties grow slowly or rest over the winter but will sprout into life as the winter winds down.
- Okra is in the hibiscus family and offers pretty yellow mallow flowers. There is even a variety with dark red leaves, stems and edible pods. This is a summer vegetable.
- For big tropical-looking leaves, try rhubarb in the shade or artichokes – with their blue, brush-like flowers – in full sun. These are both perennial vegetables.
These are just some suggestions for plants that can help your garden grow color for your kitchen and landscape. Vegetables no longer need to be hidden in a back garden. Color your garden with decorative edibles. It’s fun, tasty, nourishing and even pretty!