Vegetables of a Different Color

Tomatoes are red. Carrots are orange. Cauliflower is white. And corn is yellow. And so it shall always be.

Not true. Well, at least not entirely true. Yes, most of the time, the aforementioned vegetables are the aforementioned colors. But not always. Did you know that there are purple carrots? Yellow cauliflower. Black tomatoes. And corn that is a veritable rainbow.

Purple Dragon Carrot Cheddar CauliflowerBlack Krim Tomato  Rainbow Corn

Wait, is something wrong with these vegetables? Not at all. But they may seem strange to some of us who are used to buying our fruits and vegetables from supermarkets. Supermarkets have to offer produce that appeals to the masses. They may not make much money selling fruits and veggies that are anything other than the color that the mass population expects.

We humans have it in our heads that food has to be a certain color, or else something is wrong with it. Eggs have to be a golden yellow. Butter also has to be yellow. That’s why poultry producers feed their chickens corn gluten meal to give the eggs that bright yellow. It’s also why color is added to butter.

I once used this mindset to play a prank on two of my college roommates. I waited for a day when both were away from our apartment. Then I grabbed my food coloring, opened the refrigerator door, and went to work. By the time I had finished, we had purple pickles, blue Thousand Island dressing, mustard that looked like guacamole, and my personal favorite — the green milk.

Green Milk

There was absolutely nothing wrong with these foods. They were still the same as before I “enhanced” them. But my roommates refused to touch them. I, on the other hand, had lots of fun pouring myself a glass of green milk, getting my roommates’ attention, yelling, “Bottoms up!” and drinking it down.

The point of all of this is that vegetables of a different color offer you the chance to be creative with your crops. An orange carrot is an orange carrot. But if you serve purple carrots at your next dinner party, I guarantee that your guests will remember that for a long time to come.

So go ahead and be creative. Step outside the color box and try something different. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pour myself a nice tall glass of green milk. Bottoms up!


Drowning in Zucchini; Flooded With Tomatoes

All of your hard work has paid off! All of the sweating, digging, and back-breaking work is producing dividends in the form of tempting mouth-pleasing tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, etc. But holy cow, you didn’t expect dividends like this! Your kitchen counter is overflowing with zucchini; your kitchen table is piled high and wide with tomatoes, and if you add one more cucumber to your refrigerator, it will explode. What in the world are you going to do with all of this?

DSCN7100 Zucchini Excess DSCN8102

DSCN5234 DSCN5890

Well, giving the excess to family and friends is usually the first solution. Most people love fresh fruits and vegetables (especially when they don’t have to pay for it) and are more than happy to take some of the excess off your hands. But this solution does have its limits, and eventually your friends and family will start barring the door when they see you coming with an armload of zucchini.

A second solution is to preserve the excess through canning, freezing, drying, or winter storage. Properly preserved produce can be stored away in your kitchen or basement. Then when you have a hankering for beans, carrots, or any other produce, you won’t have to make a special trip to the grocery store (perhaps in the snow?) to spend your hard earned money on inferior produce. Your own supply will be right there at your fingertips — and it will look and taste a whole lot better too.

Third, you can use the surplus harvest in a wide variety of recipes. Chutneys, salsas, salads, breads — the possibilities are endless. Don’t have any recipes? Check a cookbook out of your local library or download some recipes from the internet. You can prepare the recipes early in the week and have plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week. Or you can bring the finished products to your next dinner party. While your friends are oohing and ahhing over what a tasty dish you’ve prepared, you can gain additional brownie points when you tell them that you not only prepared the dish from scratch, you also grew the vegetables yourself.

Lastly, you can always bring the excess to a food bank. Believe me, they can never have too much fresh produce, and they will be more than happy to take the excess off your hands. It’s a wonderful way to give away your surplus yield and also help those in your community who have fallen on hard times.

Having more produce than you can use is an excellent problem to have! Best of all it’s a problem with many wonderful solutions. So if your garden fruit and vegetable cup runneth over, then implement one of these solutions today.

Danger in the Garden

Poison Garden

“You will be interested to learn what charming vegetation grows on the surface of the globe.” — Tiger Tanaka to James Bond in Ian Fleming’s “You Only Live Twice.”

In Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, the evil Dr. Shatterhand is causing headaches to the Japanese government with his “garden of death” — a castle and grounds filled with all manner of poisonous vegetation which the doctor has planted.  His garden has become a mecca for those citizens looking to commit suicide, and Japan’s secret service recruits James Bond to “enter this castle of death and slay the dragon within.”

Such is the stuff of adventure novels, but bears little resemblance to real life.  I say “little,” because most of us lack the time, money, and the insanity to plant a garden filled with strictly noxious plants for nefarious purposes.  However, many of the common ordinary plants that we don’t think of as deadly may contain, in part or all of the plant, toxins that, if consumed, may cause illness or in some cases even death.  Here are a few examples.

Asparagus – Eating the raw shoots when they’re young and green, can cause dermatitis. The berries that grow on the feathery leaves of the mature plant are also toxic. Eating more than a handful can cause nausea and vomiting.

Castor Bean — From the seed we get ricin, a highly toxic substance.  Eight beans is enough to kill an adult human.

Foxglove — Ingestion of the leaves can cause irregular heartbeat and pulse — enough to kill.

Hyacinth, Narcissus, and Daffodil — Eating the bulbs can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea — and even death.

Kidney beans – Kidney beans contain the toxin phytohaemagglutinin. A few raw beans will make the consumer violently ill; more than a handful can kill. To inactivate the toxin, beans must be boiled for at least ten minutes before being used raw in salads, cooked with other foods in a slow cooker.

Lima beans – Lima beans should never be eaten raw, as the raw beans contain the toxin limarin. A mere handful of raw lima beans can make someone violently ill.

Potato – The leaves, stems, and tubers that have turned green contain solanine. Solanine can cause gastric distress, headache, delirium, shock, paralysis, and occasionally death.

Rhubarb — The leaves contain oxalic acid.  Eating the leaves can cause convulsions, coma, or death.

Tomato — Leaves contain tomatine, an alkaloid that can cause gastrointestinal upset.  Tomato leaves can be used to make a homemade insecticide.

While most adults are smart enough not to consume stems and leaves from these aforementioned plants, a small child or pet may not know better.  And one mistake could be the last.  So let’s be safe in the garden and keep pets and children away from these and other potentially deadly plants.