Anybody growing maroon carrots?

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While blue roses and tulips have always been a grail of sorts for hybridizers—and still elude them—blue food crops aren’t quite as popular with gardeners or eaters. A report on trends reflected in home gardening as well as in catalogs notes an upturn in quirky vegetable and fruit varieties, going well beyond heirloom tomatoes (still all the rage here in Buffalo).

June Fletcher’s AP/WSJ article says “Get ready for maroon carrots, yellow watermelons and pink-and-white striped beets.” Though I don’t grow vegetables, I still love getting the seed catalogs for this very reason; I like to speculate on who buys all the bizarre varieties. I remember when blue potatoes became popular some time ago, but apparently there’s a limit on blue food—the color is considered unappetizing (hence the blue plate special). Fletcher quotes Western New York gardener Remy Orlowski as saying she “is on the lookout for ‘weird and ugly’ tomatoes, but then Orlowski admits she sometimes has trouble giving away the strangest of the cultivars.

Sadly, unless I do start a food garden, I’ll probably never get to try orange watermelon (which looks wonderful), round yellow cucumbers, or these gorgeous radishes.

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I can imagine them as part of a composed salad or a fancy crudité platter. Maybe Remy will grow some for me.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com

26 COMMENTS

  1. Oh I’m sorry, I should have said. they are called–confusingly, at least to me–radish watermelon and Burpee has the seeds, as well as other purveyors I am sure. They are heirloom, from China.

  2. Amazon.com’s got a selection of bizarre vegetables that intrigue me – red cucumbers, purple cauliflower, white carrots, blood-red carrots, tiger melons, zebra tomatoes and pretzel beans.

    http://www.amazon.com/Hmong-Red-Cucumber-Seeds-ADDITIONAL/dp/B000MX4RXQ/ref=sr_1_22?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1211133217&sr=1-22)\

    We did grow purple green beans a couple years back. Assuming that with the green and yellow beans, they’d make for a great-looking salad. Unfortunately, the purple beans turned green when cooked!

  3. We get the radish watermelon radish most of the winter in the fruit and veggie box from our local organic grower. They are about the size of a summer turnip and are deliciously crisp and not so hot as summer radishes – very good in a winter salad. Blue potatoes I first encountered in the Shetland Islands in the early 1960s, where they are a local variety. I liked them a great deal as, unlike the other local variety, they stayed firm when boiled and tasted like new potatoes even at the end of winter. There are so many great varieties that have been lost because of people’s very limited expectations of what a particular vegetable should look like. The best tomatoes I ever tasted, and I remember it from 40 years ago, was a French variety, large, ridged to the point of segmentation and totally delicious. This year I am growing Winesops and Tigerella – Winesops are mottled purple and orange and red, and Tigerella are red streaked with yellow and both taste much more delicious than any smooth, round red varieties I have tried.

  4. Elizabeth, do you know if the companies are offering any information on the nutritional value of these rainbow veggies? I’m wondering, for example, if the maroon carrots have as much beta-carotene as the plain old orange ones do?

  5. Claire, if you read the article, she does speak of a certain group of vegetables that have more vitamin power-the Ferry Morse Health Smart series, which includes Nutri-Red carrots, which have more lycopene, supposedly. The carrots I showed are not those, though. They are from Burpee and I didn’t see if there were nutritional claims. I tend to think eating any vegetables fresh from your own garden must be better. I really can’t do it, but I go to the local farmers’ market–next best, I’m hoping.

  6. I am a total sucker for strange veggies. Yellow beets (‘Intermediate Mangel’) are my favorite, and I’ve had purple carrots and purple beans in my garden before. Disappointingly, the latter turn to green when you cook them.

  7. If you’re interested in vegetable varieties — unusual or otherwise — and what your fellow gardeners think about them, you might check out the Cornell Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners website: http://vegvariety.cce.cornell.edu (Full disclosure: I work on this website some at my day job.)

    You’ll find more than 6,000 descriptions and a growing number of reviews by gardeners from around the country on how the varieties performed where they garden.

    For example, you’ll find half a dozen purple carrot varieties described (with seed sources) here: http://vegvariety.cce.cornell.edu/mainSearch/showAll.php?refineByID=12&sortBy=overallrating&order=DESC&searchIn=0&searchCriteria=purple

    Gardeners have contributed 8 ratings/reviews for three of the varieties. You can read what they think. And better yet, you can rate and review your own favorites, or those that haven’t done well under your conditions.

    Sorry for the shameless plug, but the more gardeners who rate varieties, the more useful this resource becomes.

  8. I too enjoy growing the odd varieties and find myself looking more at seed companies that offer odd varieties than other companies. Hope the giant tomatoes do well this year, and can’t wait for more Romanescos next winter.

  9. I’m growing purple carrots (cosmic purple) and purple bush beans (royalty purple)! The purple carrots are new to me this year, but I thought they were pretty (I’m also growing nutri-red carrots, which are very good cooked). I’m a sucker for unusual varieties (why grow what I can buy?!).

    I grow the purple beans because they are easy to pick — the beans stand out from the foliage. I do wish they would stay purple when cooked, but I’m happy to grow them anyway.

  10. I’m growing purple carrots (cosmic purple) and purple bush beans (royalty purple)! The purple carrots are new to me this year, but I thought they were pretty (I’m also growing nutri-red carrots, which are very good cooked). I’m a sucker for unusual varieties (why grow what I can buy?!).

    I grow the purple beans because they are easy to pick — the beans stand out from the foliage. I do wish they would stay purple when cooked, but I’m happy to grow them anyway.

  11. I love strange and unusual vegetables. Right now I have purple carrots, Burgandy bush beans, purple kohlrabi, Black Krim tomatoes, Purple russian tomatoes, and green sausage tomatoes. I also believe that yellow and orange tomatoes taste much better than red tomatoes.

  12. The maroon carrots were developed by a man from Texas A&M, appropriately so, as the school colors are maroon and white. I grew up there, and remember when they were introduced. I believe they were bred to have a higher beta carotene dose in each. The color was a happy accident.

    🙂 Gig’m Aggies!

  13. We don’t really grow any “normal” colored veggies in our patch. Our carrots, cauliflower and kale are purple. We’re growing the watermelon radishes. Our beets are yellow and also pink & white striped. The potatoes are blue and the tomatoes are pretty funny looking. I Guess “weird” or “odd” is in the eye of the beholder.

  14. Bodaciously pulchritudinous! They look awesome Elizabeth.

    BTW – Curmudgeon, I soooo want to come and visit your veggie patch if this is normal. Sounds incredible.

  15. I’ve grown cosmic purple carrots and have to say they are some of the most fun carrots to give away. It’s a gift that only a home gardener could give.

  16. They’re amazing! Thomson and Morgan sell lots of strange coloured carrots and veg. They’re the original colours from Holland I believe.

  17. Hi,
    I’m the Remy of the article!
    June took a bit of artistic license in the article. I’m actually on the lookout for great tasting heirloom tomatoes. Sometimes they maybe odd looking. I have no problems giving away tomato plants or fruit. I said I had read in chat rooms that others in different parts of the country have difficulties when people see a black tomato, etc.
    I don’t fault her for what she wrote, it makes a more interesting article that way. : )
    Remy
    PS, Elizabeth, I wish I seen this sooner. I hold a tomato party the first Sat. after labor day each year on Grand Island. You are more than welcome to attend next year’s party.

  18. These carrots are some of MOST disappointing veggies I’ve grown. They taste terrible, very bitter….If it was just one box, well but this is from six different box. I also grow Sugersnax, Burpee A+,Sweet Treat…. all really taste good.

    At least the red, white and purple carrots are good for a carrot cake!!

  19. Hi I am trying to acquire some seeds from the blue carrot, to proper gate for my own use, does any one know whare I can acquire some from please

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