When we think of growing a garden, the first color that naturally comes to mind is green. But there are so many beautiful colorful vegetables that can be planted to create a rainbow garden! Many standard favorites come in all sorts of hues. So get ready to design your most colorful garden yet!
Lettuce is a staple in most households, but did you know there are many colorful varieties beyond romaine, iceberg, and green leaf? Freckled Romaine has burgundy dots on the green leaves and Rogue d’Hiver is not only cold hardy but is a beautiful wine colored lettuce.
Try an assortment of lettuce varieties and make your next salad picture perfect.
Potatoes are delicious and can be used in a variety of ways. Some are best for baking, or boiling, or frying. Some store longer than others, and there are some that are extremely colorful. When we grew a big garden, we used to get all our potatoes from Wood Prairie Family Farm, and they have a lot of colorful potatoes to choose from. Try Adirondack Blue, Red Cloud, Rose Gold and Purple Viking.
Tomatoes come in many colors, from red, to orange, yellow, green, and even black. They’re some of the most colorful vegetables you can grow, and have different sweetness and acidity levels. Katie from Kitchen Stewardship offers her advice on which to choose:
“Red… are the most “balanced” between sweet, acidic, and tangy. Pink tomatoes often fit this flavor profile as well. Black/Purple tomatoes have some of the most complex flavors. Smoky, earthy, and sweet without a lot of tartness. Orange tomatoes are usually fruity, tangy, and very flavorful. Yellow and white tomatoes are the least acidic and are usually sweet and mild.
Green tomatoes can vary widely in flavor but are often described as especially sweet. These aren’t to be confused with unripe tomatoes that southerners like us love to fry.”
Some of my personal favorite tomatoes to grow are Pink Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, and Green Zebra.
According to Anna Taylor, a registered dietician, the carrot’s color is more than just a visual cue: they each hold different health benefits.
She says, “Orange: High in beta carotene, an antioxidant that may reduce your risk for cancer.
Yellow: Contain both beta carotene and lutein, which researchers think may protect the eyes.
Red: Provide nail-strengthening biotin, potassium, brain-boosting vitamin B6 and immune-supporting vitamin C.
Purple: Rich in anthocyanin, which may reduce inflammation and obesity.
White: While they may not be colorful, they’re still nutritious! White carrots deliver plenty of fiber to aid in digestion.”
Who doesn’t love fresh corn on the cob slathered with butter? Well, Glass Gem corn literally has rainbow colored kernels adorning each cob. The best thing is that this variety is a naturally grown hybrid and not a GMO.
Oklahoma farmer Carl Barnes began growing it and other old corn varieties as a way to connect with his Cherokee heritage. He was able to isolate ancestral types that had been lost to Native American tribes when they were relocated in the 1800s to what is now Oklahoma. He has helped people to reclaim their cultural and spiritual identities.
“Their corn was, to them, literally the same as their bloodline, their language, and their sense of who they were”, according to SeedBroadcast
Glass Gem Corn can’t be eaten fresh from the cob, but makes a colorful bowl of popcorn. There are 16 colors of corn to choose from. Try growing it as an essential part of a three sisters permaculture guild.
Peas aren’t only crunchy and sweet to eat, but are also beautiful to the eye. Their flowers come in many different colors, ranging from pink and white to blue or yellow. Blue Shift gives you different shades of blue in the same bloom as it matures.
Plant sweet peas in early spring, since they do not like very hot weather.
Eggplant (aubergine) is one of my favorite vegetables. It comes in the familiar dark purple, but also white, blush, stripped, and scarlet varieties. This vegetables also comes in various shapes from round globes to long fingers. It’s not just the fruits that are colorful and beautiful, but its blooms as well.
The peppers we’re most familiar with—sweet bell peppers—are already a colorful bunch. They normally come in red, orange, yellow, and green. But they also come in less common hues like brown, purple, and white.
Try growing some of the multicolored “baby” ornamental varieties, like the Bolivian Rainbow Pepper, which as its name suggests has varied colors all on one plant.
Some of the more ornamental types have more of a neutral flavor. Black Cobra and Black Pearl peppers, which are both black in color, do pack a spicy punch.
Chard is one of my favorite garden greens. Although it’s a green vegetable, it’s not always totally green in color. Rainbow, Ruby Red, and Golden chard all have brightly colored stems and look beautiful both in the garden and on your plate.
In my personal experience, chard is less susceptible to cabbage worms than kale.
Beets deserve kitchen love. They can be sweet and earthy, and there is no argument that they add vibrant color to anything you cook them with. They’re delicious roasted, and pair wonderfully with tart cherries or cranberries and goat cheese. I also love a good borscht, and it can be fun to throw beet juice in your pasta water and watch your pasta turn red.
Chioggia beets are candy-striped, Bull’s Blood are a deep red, and Golden beets, of course, are yellow.
Cabbage is a beautiful vegetable to grow, and reminds me of a flower as it matures. It’s also one of the most colorful vegetables out there. Savoy cabbage has an interesting texture and is much brighter in hue than green cabbage. But purple cabbage is the most vibrant of all.
You can also grow ornamental cabbages, but just like ornamental peppers, they have a bland flavor. However, they are very cold hardy and can take temperatures as low as 20 degrees F (minus 7 degrees C).
Radishes are incredibly diverse, colorful vegetables. They come in the classic red or pink with white interior, but can also have green or black exteriors. Watermelon radishes are green on the outside and pink on the inside.
If you think you don’t like radishes, these 5 recipes might change your mind.
Kale is all the rage these days, touted for its health benefits as being one of the healthiest foods in the world.
The most common varieties are green or purple curly kale or Lacinato which is silvery green in color. But check out these 10 varieties if you want something a little different.
Pumpkins are iconic autumn vegetables, and come in a wide range of colors. Although most noted for having vibrant orange hues, they also come in various tints of green, blue, white, and soft orange. They also come in many sizes, from “baby” to giant. Some are bumpy on the outside, while other are smooth.
You have a lot to choose from when it comes to pumpkins.
15. Winter Squash
Just like pumpkins, winter squashes come in a huge range. From the long yellow and green striped delicata (which has the sweetest flesh) to the pale yellow spaghetti squash and everything in between. You can’t go wrong with adding beautiful winter squash to your rainbow garden.
This quick guide shares numerous choices, and also how to cook with them. The blossoms are also gorgeous, and edible. They’re delicious stuffed with soft cheese and herbs, and then closed up and lightly fried in olive oil.
White, orange, purple and technicolor bright green are the colors to choose from when it comes to cauliflower. But are they all the same when it comes to nutrition?
“Purple cauliflower has anthocyanins in it, powerful antioxidants that can help prevent cancer, among other diseases. The orange cauliflower is bursting with antioxidants of a different variety, mainly carotenes. The green variety is likely higher in the anti-inflammatory compound retinol than the white variety, though it’s tough finding good sources of info out there”, says Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD
I say plant all three!
Beans are a staple crop in many world cuisines, and they come in so many shades. Just think of black beans, kidney beans, and garbanzos. Did you know there are also several varieties that are beautiful in the growing stages, too, that will add pop to your rainbow garden?
Try Borlotti, Scarlet Runner, or Hyacinth in your garden design. Not only are the bean pods beautiful, but so are the blooms.
Artichokes are part of the thistle family, so they grow large, spiky, purple flowers. Globe artichokes are perennial crops, which means they will come back year after year. Try the Petite Mercury or the Baby Anzio for smaller varieties. The Fiesole artichoke has a fruity flavor and a deep wine color that does not fade with cooking.
Rhubarb is another perennial with large leaves and bright red ribs. It’s ready to harvest in 2-3 years and can grow in partial shade.
You might not think of it as one of the more colorful vegetables out there, but asparagus comes in three different hues: green, purple, and white. Green is the most common in the US, whereas white is preferred in Europe. However, purple is a different variety altogether. It was developed in Italy, and is only purple on the outside.
The purple color is a result of anthocyanins: potent antioxidant flavonoids that have protective and preventive health benefits. These include anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. So it’s colorful as well as healthy.
Radicchio is considered an old-world chicory. Its red and white striped leaves are striking, and can be eaten raw or cooked. This vegetable prefers to be grown in colder climates
22. Ground Cherries
Ground cherries (Physalis) are golden in color, and they grow in highly ornamental husks, like its tomatillo cousins.
These super fruits are full of vitamins such as Beta-Carotene (to improve your eyesight), Vitamin A (to improve your skin’s moisture layer), Vitamin C (to improve your immune system), and Thiamin (to aid digestion). It’s also packed with Riboflavin (to boost your energy levels), Niacin (to keep you in a happy mood) and so much more. Considering how good they are for you, who wouldn’t want to grow them?
Dandelions might be considered weeds, but their blooms are cheery, and since they’re the first flowers to bloom in springtime, they’re are an important first food for bees.
You can also eat every part of the plant. The blooms are delicious in salads or batter-fried, the greens make a great salad or wilted greens, and the roots are amazing in soups. Here are 7 ways to eat them.
Eat your weeds!
Nasturtiums are edible flowers, but you can also eat the stems and the seeds. The blooms are bright and colorful, and they are a wonderful companion plant for the rest of your garden. Not convinced? Here are 14 reasons why you should add them to your colorful vegetable garden.
Quick Design Tips
Place the brightest and most visually striking plants on the edges of your garden beds. This way you can enjoy them better as you walk through your garden.
You can also create beautiful patterns with various colors of the same vegetable. Try a checkerboard pattern with green and red lettuces for example, or make a cauliflower spiral with all the different-hued varieties.
So go on and grow your rainbow garden today!