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Mar 19, 2010
Seeing red is a good thing
Burpee  Edible Gardening Team Members

As vegetables grow, ripen and prepare for picking, gardeners begin to pay close attention to color. Not only will particular colors tell you when it’s time to harvest, they’re also a great indicator for nutrition as well! Vegetable color is often the result of the presence of vitamins and other antioxidants in the plant, giving the fruit a specific color and offering health and dietary benefits to your body.

In this Rainbow Garden series of blogs, we’ll discuss all the colors of the rainbow and how planting certain vegetable varieties can help you get useful vitamins into your diet! To get maximum nutrition out of your garden, plant one or more foods from each color category:


When you see juicy red tomatoes, thank lycopene. Lycopene is a bright red carotene, carotenoid pigment and phytochemical found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables. It is also a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals in the body.

For tomatoes, all colors are vitamin C-rich (30-39% of the DV in a tomato, 47% in a cup of cherry tomatoes). Orange varieties are higher in beta-carotene, lower in lycopene. Stretch out your season of nutrition by planting one or more varieties in each class (early, middle and late summer). FYI: the body best absorbs lycopene when accompanied by fats, so cooking with your tomatoes and pureeing them into sauces, soups and ketchup recipes will increase your intake.

Watermelon, too, is rich in lycopene. A cup of cubes also supplies a quarter of the DV for vitamin C. When choosing to plant watermelons, remember that this variety is one that needs a lot of water. You’ll know watermelons are ripe a few days after the curly tendril closest to the stem (attached to the fruit) turns brown.

Other red veggies rich in lycopene are red peppers, which are also high in vitamins C and A as well. Red bell peppers are actually green bell peppers that have ripened longer and are very sweet.

More colors to come! Stay tuned.

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