Planting a kaleidoscope of colour in my vegie patch
While from an aesthetic perspective I love to have a colouful and attractive looking veggie patch, I also know that it is very important to eat vegetables in a variety of colours to meet our nutritional requirements. Nutritional guidelines recommend that Australians eat at least 2 servings of fruit and five servings of fresh vegetables every day (one serve of vegetables is 75 grams or a half a cup of cooked vegetables, one cup of salad vegetables or one medium potato), and to get the most out of what you eat, it is best to growing (and eat) as wide a variety of coloured veggies as possible.
While all vegetables provide vitamins and minerals essential to human health, they also contain phytochemicals – compounds that not only give vegetables their colour, but nourish and help to guard against some diseases. Keeping the vegetable garden full of colour is the key to healthy eating, and the five discreet colour groups vegetables fall into provide their own distinct nutritional benefits.
Green is the most common colour in the vegetable patch, which is apt because it the most important of all vegetable colours when it comes to human health! Leafy green vegetables provide a range of nutrients and are rich in antioxidants – compounds that work to combat free-radicals, which cause cell damage and are thought to contribute to the development of a number of diseases. Herbs such as parsley provide us with nutrient rich greens all year round, while over winter I have had lots of spinach, silver beet, broccoli and Asian greens. I grow salad greens all year round but am putting in more for the warmer months as we seem to eat more salad, and adding classic summer salad veggies, cucumbers, capsicums and beans.
Blue & purple
Blue and purple colours also provide heart health as well as having mild anti-bacterial effects. Over winter I have had a number of blue and purple kales, cabbages and even purple carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, but now I am starting to plant eggplant and purple carrots.
The orange colour of carrots has been renowned to improve your eyesight, but the same is true of other orange and yellow vegetables. At the moment I am harvesting golden beetroot and planting yellow capsicums, tomatoes, sweet potato and pumpkin, and not only will they help you see better, but they will give your immune system a boost as well.
Red coloured veggies get their pigment from compounds which have been proven to help guard against heart disease as well as various forms of cancer. Any red vegetables will contain these beneficial compounds, and at the moment I am loving our red beetroot and red pak choy, and planting lots of tomatoes and capsicums.
White vegetables are believed to help maintain healthy bones and aid the circulatory system. Potatoes, onions and garlic are the classic white vegetables, all growing at the moment however I am still planting spring onions as I try to have a new batch go in every month to keep a constant supply.
Obviously, just like people, plants grow with vitality when grown in good soil and provided with proper nutrition, so keep feeding your soil, and as a result you will feed your plants, and your family! When you are planting your own patch with veggies this spring, ensure you plant a kaleidoscope of colours for the most nutritional benefits.