Gardening Articles: Health :: Health

Super-Nutritious Vegetables (page 2 of 3)

by Deborah Wechsler

Tomatoes and Vitamins

Tomatoes and Vitamins

Tomatoes are also getting a boost in vitamin A, as well as in vitamin C.

Significant impetus for this work on tomatoes comes from the processing industry, which sees marketing potential in using nutrient-spiked tomatoes to increase the health value of soups and vegetable juices. John Stommel, a researcher at the USDA Experiment Station in Beltsville, Maryland, anticipates several processing varieties will be released this year. More home garden varieties, including beefsteak and cherry types, should follow in a few years, but there are a few gardeners can grow right now.

The lowercase "t" after the number of days to harvest means the number is days from transplants.

'Caro-Rich' (80t days). This determinate variety produces 10- to 12-ounce, globe-shaped, orange fruits that contain 10 times the vitamin A of other tomatoes.

There are other orange tomatoes, but in this case, skin color doesn't necessarily indicate higher carotene. "Orange tomatoes other than 'Caro-Rich' gain their color from a 'tangerine' gene, not the much rarer high-carotene 'beta' gene," says Stommel.

'Double Rich' (65t to 75t days). These 3- to 4-inch bright red fruits contain twice the vitamin C of other tomatoes-as much as in an orange. Indeterminate plants grow 2- to 4-feet tall and need the support of a trellis. Maturity is midseason for a tomato.

Squash and Carotene

Squash and Carotene

Winter squash, especially the Cucurbita maxima types (such as the buttercups, some pumpkins, and hubbards), are good sources of vitamin A. But 'Jade-A', a 5- to 10-pound, dark green, heart-shaped squash, holds the record for highest total carotene in tests done at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, a few years ago. 'Jade-A' is also very high in lutein, an antioxidant and antitumor carotene. John Schneeberger, co-owner of Garden City Seeds in Hamilton, Montana, is enthusiastic about 'Jade-A': "It's early, very productive, and has an extraordinarily good flavor. If there's a downside, it's that the plants are very large."

'Jade-A' (92 days). This hybrid buttercup-type squash produces four or five 8-pound squash per plant.

Carotene-rich Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Cucumbers

Hot off the breeder's bench and available to home gardeners are a few other carotene-enriched vegetables.

'Orange Bouquet' cauliflower (58t days). This hybrid produces pastel orange heads with a yellow interior. Color is best when heads are not covered. "It has the color of orange sherbet," says Rob Johnston of Johnny's Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine.

'Orange Queen' Chinese cabbage (80 days). This upright-growing hybrid produces Napa-type heads with higher-than-normal carotene levels. When the head is cut and exposed to light, the internal color changes from lemon yellow to pale orange.

Perhaps the most fascinating high-carotene vegetable on the horizon is the orange-fleshed cucumber developed by John Navazio and Phil Simon. The USDA has already made it available to seed companies, and it should be in catalogs within a few years. This cucumber has a vitamin A level equivalent to that of muskmelon (ordinary cucumbers have almost none).

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