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‘Gardens are not made by singing ‘oh how beautiful’ and sitting in the shade.’ Rudyard Kipling.

This is part two of my blog post on growing a rainbow from your vegetable boxes and containers in your garden this year.  Having a bight autumnal garden full of burnished reds, yellow and oranges is not all about the flowers in the garden.  Here are some more ideas for how to inject colour into your garden by growing vegetables.

Purple carrots have more essential nutrients and antioxidants than their coral coloured cousins.

Purple carrots

How to grow:

Once upon a time all carrots were purple. They are just as easy to grow as their coral coloured cousins.  Sow February to July in rows 1cm deep and 5cm apart. The seed is small so you need to mix with dry sand to give a more even sowing distribution.  My carrots grow best in containers and are harvestable in 80 days. Ive got two large black containers from Wilkinsons.

Carrots grow best in containers.

How to eat:

Coloured carrots are always a winner in my house and look stunning on the plate.  Perfect for making coleslaw with several colours.  It really is a feast for the eyes.

Purple carrots look stunning on a table.

Colour Credentials:

Early research suggests purple carrots could contain up to five times more phenolics and falcarinol than orange carrots, compounds which have been linked to improved cardiovascular health.  The purple varieties also contain anthocyanin, the antioxidant that gives blueberries their distinctive colour and superfood status.

Perfect for getting some burnt ruby reds into your vegetable garden.


How to grow:

Usually grown as a pretty border plant, amaranth also has intensity red edible leaves.  I sow this plant in May directly into a seed tray and then plant out in June 15 cm apart.

How to eat:

If you can bear to pick them the leaves are exceptionally good in the kitchen. Delicious dark red leaves for use in soups and stews.  I highly recommend using the leaves in a curry.  Delicious!

Colour credentials:

Amaranth is rich in magnesium, which is a essential mineral for a healthy immune system.  The leaves can help control blood sugar and blood pressure, and support nerve function and bone health.  It also contributes to energy production.

Beautiful mountain spinach.


How to grow:

From May onwards you can sow the disc-like seed ready for harvest over the summer. The plants grow 1m tall and look very pretty, but are better picked when small and tender.

Use the tender colourful leaves as you would spinach in salads, stir fries and curry.

How to eat:

Also called ‘mountain spinach,’ use the tender, heart-shaped, deep purple leaves as you would conventional spinach.  You can also snip young leaves as micro-herbs or use them to create a natural for dye.

Colour credentials:

Swap your greens for power-up purple leaves that are rich in vitamins C and A.

You need neutral soil to get blue beans.

Purple beans:

How to grow:

Sow under cover in late April, planting one bean 2cm deep in individual pots. Harden off and plant out from May when the risk of frost has passed.  The colour of your beans will depend on the acidity of your soil – the anthocyanin tend to turn more red in acidic soil and become paler in alkaline.  Neutral soil will produce the blues.

Add lemon juice or vinegar to cooking to lock in colour.

How to eat:

You need heat to keep the purple tinge when cooking.  Boiling or steaming will just break down the pigmentation, so steam, or take an ice bath.  Plunging the beans into icy water for 10s minutes after cooking halts the heat process, which destroys the pigments.  Adding lemon juice or vinegar during cooking can also help lock in the purple colour.

Colour credentials:

Purple beans are high in anthocyanin which are anti-inflammatory.

A fantastic source of vitamin C and fibre.

Blue potatoes

How to grow:

You can grow these stunners in a large container like my ones from wilkinsons. Chit the seeds by setting them out on a windowsill and allowing them to sprout. Once the chits are approximately 7cm high, pencil thick and a purple-green colour, fill an eight litre container or sack with compost and pop your seed potatoes into the soil, to a depth of 12cm, with the shoot pointing up.  Keep moist and in a sunny position and they should be ready for harvest in June/July.

Blue potatoes look stunning in a simple potato salad.

How to eat:

Cooking is where blue potatoes keep their colour.  Man the most of them in potato salads, wedges and fun coloured mash.

Colour credentials:

Blue potatoes are high in vitamin C and fibre with extra antioxidants from the blue pigments.  A study from Colorado university showed blue potatoes contained as many polyphonous as blueberries.

Enjoy growing a rainbow in your vegetable boxes and containers like I have.


Emma xxx