In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
March, 2013
Regional Report

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'Bright Lights' Swiss chard is packed full of vitamins and minerals to make you healthy.

Pump up Those Vita-Mighties!

We all want to be healthier, right? And we have a great start simply by being gardeners. But did you know that it's possible to ramp up your vitamin intake, not just by eating by more vegetables, but by eating better vegetables.

One of the hot areas of plant breeding these days is developing vegetables with more than the usual amounts of vital elements that we need for our bodies. This gives us so many more choices as we look through the seed catalogs and racks at the garden store.

Purple Fruits
One thing to keep in mind is to choose vegetables with the deepest color possible. Dark purple, dark green, and dark orange are all indicators that the vegetable has higher than usual amounts of anthocyanins, vitamin C, Vitamin K, lycopene and beta carotene. All of these nutrients help keep us healthy, and many are antioxidants that prevent cell damage that can lead to disease, including cancer. Anthocyanins, in particular, are powerful anti-cancer compounds.

Beets and Greens
Beets naturally have high levels of anthocyanins (indicated by purple color), but some have even more than the standard beet. Bull's blood beets have the deepest red color in the beet root, but also have purple foliage, which shows the anthocyanins are in the leaves as well. Beet greens, mustard greens, kale, and Swiss chard are also packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Vitamin A. Red mustard, ruby chard, and redbor kale have the added benefit of anthocyanins. Golden beets have the added value of higher than normal levels of Vitamin C.

Carrots are by their nature high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C, and breeders have been working on new cultivars to increase their vitamin content. 'Purple Sun' and 'Cosmic Purple', for example, have extremely high levels of anthocyanins. 'Atomic Red' is quite high in lycopene, a compound made of antioxidants.

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts
All of these members of the cabbage family have very high levels of Vitamins C, K, and A; folates; and countless minerals. Best of all, they are all available in purple forms, so you can add anthocyanins to the power package.

Peppers and Tomatoes
Peppers and tomatoes get their red color from lycopene and are extremely high in vitamin C. With peppers, go for reddest type possible and always allow them to ripen completely. Also, purple and chocolate peppers have added anthocyanins. Tomatoes such as 'Indigo Rose' and 'Cherokee Purple' have high levels of anthocyanins. Any tomato with "black" in the name has this boost as well. Try 'Black Cherry' or 'Black Krim'. 'Black Galaxy' and 'Japanese Black' will really set your table apart!

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