Garden Lifestyle

How to Plant by Color

Gardeners can paint a healthful garden picture by planting a palette of colorful veggies loaded with phytonutrients.

Planting by color is easy with the wide selection of vegetable varieties on the market today.
Photo/Illustration: John Pendleton

Gardeners have it made when it comes to healthy eating. Not only do we get to have the freshest produce on the block, we can easily meet the daily recommended amount of fresh vegetables with a quick trip to the garden.

Gardeners also get to pick and prepare a seemingly endless assortment of colorful veggies loaded with phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients are those delicious, health-promoting chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants, like the beta-carotene in the bright orange color of carrots.

It’s easy to fill a garden bed full of phytonutrients by planting vegetables that represent all the colors in a painter’s palette. Bright reds, like tomatoes and watermelon, provide lycopene. Plant a few garlic bulbs or yellow onions and you’ve planted some allyl sulfides and quercetin. Add some leafy greens for leutins. Sow some broccoli and you’ve got the sulforaphane covered.

Phytonutrients like these can act as anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. Researchers continue to study how these compounds work to help build the immune system, fight diabetes, and reduce the risk of cancer.

While researchers are busy in the lab, gardeners can get busy in the garden.

This year I’m going to use my garden like a canvas. I’ll paint broad strokes of purple, yellow, and green beans in the vegetable bed and splash the colors of three kinds of carrots in a large container. I’ll use different tints of tomatoes, from black to brilliant pink, to create a colorful composition. I’m imagining a gardenscape of beautiful orange bell peppers and luscious lemon-yellow summer squash.

I’ll also daub in some mache among the kale and collard greens.

Now every time I browse the pages of a seed catalog, I’m looking for veggies by color so I can paint a perfect picture of health.

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