• Sofias Country Gardens

Purple dreams



This year I dream of growing more purple vegetables in my garden. I find them beautiful to look at and apparently they are even healthier than the normal green stuff. This is because they have a compound called anthocyanin in them, which gives the red hue and is associated with a myriad of health benefits such as increasing healthy gut bacteria and reducing stomach ulcers. Purple vegetables aslo have a higher content of cancer fighting antioxidants in them, and we all want to stuff ourselves with those don't we?!


My favourite vegetable must be the humble beetroot. I love the many coloured varieties that I grow each year too, such as the polka striped one in the top picture, but nothing really beets a proper deep purple beet! I pickle them as small and tender root vegetables for use in winter, and nothing makes me happier than a line of beetroot jars in the larder.

A few years ago I grew the lovely French been Purple Queen. It is a fabulous compact plant with ample yield. Actually, I had such a good harvest that I overindulged and didn't want to eat them for two years afterwards... But this year I'm interested in expanding my purple repertoire and trying new things, so I have ordered a packet of Blauhilde Organic climbing beans to try out. French beans are usually quite easy to grow. They don't like cold or wet soil so I usually plant them towards the end of May when the soil is warm enough. Also, they like a bit of shelter if the garden is exposed, so they can be started under cloches you can use as small windbreak (about 30cm high) around the growing site to shelter them.


Last year was the first time I tried to grow purple potatoes and I used a variety called Salad Blue. I am mad about blue potatoes! Everything about them is beautiful. From the dainty little pale blue flowers to the way they make a potato salad look like a bowl of gems. This year I am growing a Finnish variety called Violet Queen. Each year I also grow onions, and this year will be no exception. I love the softness of purple onions, but for cooking I will have some yellow strong ones too.

Kale is another vegetable that comes in multiple forms and colours. Below is Nero di Toscana together with Marigolds, and rosettes of Rotes Grunkohl. Nero di Toscana is a lovely variety as it is both extremely decorative in the garden and is very hardy. I love the tase of kale, but if you find it a bit strong simply pick the leaves when they are small and tender. For those who don't like buggs it is also a good choice as the leaves are flat and smooth which makes finding any wayward larvae easy. The Rotes Grunkohl variety was supposed to be beautifully bright purple, so perhaps I did something wrong as they turned green in the leaf, although the stalks and veins retained the purple hue I was aiming for. They were just as good to eat though, tender and sweet in raw salads. This season I shall definitely try it again!


Unfortunately the carrot Atomic Red seems to be perennially out of stock, but luckily it is included in my favourite carrot seed mix from Runåbergs fröer. Carrots like a humus rich sandy soil, and as they need a lot of potassium a dash of well composted manure, wood ash or compost is great. However, be careful not to over fertilise as too much nitrogen can cause an over active top growth and cracked roots. I always grow my carrots next to the onions to keep carrot flies away, but apparently this works just as well with sage or tomatoes.