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Vegetables that colour up in the cold

Written by Carolyn on June 7th, 2013.      0 comments

 


It seems a bit churlish to complain about the onset of the colder weather after the summer we had.  Never-the-less, we are reluctantly having to admit that winter is here. 

Learning to keep the garden planted and productive throughout the colder months is another whole gardening skill to be learnt.

There are some interesting things that happen in the winter garden ....




 
...some vegetables become more intense in colour with the colder weather...
 
 

Have you ever wondered what blueberries and purple cauliflowers have in common?  Possibly not, but there is a common factor....


Anthocyanins.  You might have heard about these before....anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments that are responsible for the red, purple and blue colouring of many fruits and vegetables. 

Anthocyanins belong to a class of molecule called flavonoids.  They have been intensely researched because of their possible health benefits as dietary antioxidants.  

Studies suggest anthocyanins might help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.  Anthocyanins occur in all tissues of plants, including the leaves, stems, roots, flowers and fruits.  Quite a number of fruits that are high in anthocyanins have been labelled "superfoods" because of this....some examples of this are blueberries, black currents, elderberries and red grapes. 

I was interested to know why the colder weather would affect the colour of a vegetable, so for those of you who also like to know why, here is an explanation:

During summer, plants are very busy producing sugar from carbon dioxide and water by the action of light on chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll is responsible for the green appearance of plants.  The shortening days and cool nights of autumn trigger changes in the plant - low temperatures reduce the levels of chlorophyll and, if temperatures stay above freezing, the formation of anthocyanin is increased.  Bright sunshine also destroys chlorophyll and enhances anthocyanin production.     (By the way, this process is what is responsible for the changing colours of autumn leaves....)


So, as the cooler weather comes, your red cabbages and red onions become more intense in colour, your purple kohlrabi, cabbages and cauliflower become more intensely purple, your beetroot and carrots become more deeply coloured.  

With some vegetables, the anthocyanins are found mostly in the outside layer  - some examples are eggplants and purple carrots - just wipe or scrub them clean and eat them without peeling them to make sure you receive the maximum health benefits! 


You may also notice that some of your leaf crops that have some red colouring to them, become more red-tinged through the colder months - mustards and red lettuces are an example of this -  for example, Mizuna Red Coral from our microgreen range appears more red in colour when grown in cooler conditions and more green when grown in the summer heat. 

 
 

So, as the winter months go by, get those colourful vegetables into your garden beds and then you will be able to enjoy the flavour, visual appeal AND the health benefits of eating out of your garden through the colder months. 
 
 

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