In Praise of Purple Produce

Various shades of plum, berry, lavendar and aubergine are the new black in fashion.  But purple is not simply a trendy color for your wardrobe, it’s a hue that deserves a prime spot on your plate.

Purple produce is the topic of my article today in the Chicago Tribune, The Color Purple: Disease Fighter.  

I wrote about the growing array of heirloom and specialty vegetables with a distinctive purplish hue, including purple potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, corn and cauliflower.  Beyond the pleasing appearance on the plate, the purple color is a cue for nutritional power.


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The dark pigments responsible for the purple tones are called anthocyanins, a type of phytonutrient or plant compound that is being hailed for its potential disease-fighting benefits — from heart disease to cancer.

I’m quite enamored by purple foods, and I’ve found similar enthusiasm from a blogger in Tel Aviv named Liz Steinberg.  I truly enjoyed her celebration of purple food week on Cafe Liz, which featured beautiful photos and enticing recipes of purple vegetables, including purple cauliflower and purple salads. Her creations are below…   

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Herbivoracious featured an intriguing recipe for Roasted Purple Cauliflower with Sherry Vinaigrette and Fried Capers.  You can find a Gratin with Purple Cauliflower, Fennel and Leeks by visiting Wandering Chopsticks, and Purple Cauliflower With Raisins and Pine Nuts at NY Girl Eats World.

Many of the purple vegetables are heirloom varietals, others are simply hybrids.  purple-tomatoes2In the U.K. a purple tomato was created by using biotechnology — researchers transferred genes from snapdragon flowers to create a deep purple tomato packed with anthocyanins that helped extend the life of cancer-prone mice. This is the first example of a genetically engineered tomato with higher levels of health-promoting anthocyanins (it’s not currently commercially available); the other purple tomatoes you can buy are heirloom varieties.

If you can’t find the trendy purple vegetables where you shop, wait until this summer and look for them at local farmers’ markets.  They are also increasingly available online from seed catalogs and specialty produce distributors.

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