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The Gothic Vegetable Garden

By Katherine Placzek

Black & purple vegetables are not only for someone who is looking for a fun or Gothic vibe in their garden. Purple-ish fruits and vegetables have higher antioxidants, which play an important role in protecting your cells against heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. So it is healthy for you to plant and eat these dark maroon beauties!
All of these vegetables are carried by us as seeds through the Botanical Interests or Lake Valley Seed brands (both CO businesses). There is a wide array of purple/ black vegetables so feel free to go down the rabbit hole and create the dark and mysterious garden of your dreams! Note that various seeds may be out of stock throughout the season.


Amaranth
Burgundy: These plants offer beauty and sustenance! The plants can get tall and have elegant and eye-catching burgundy plumes that can be used in flower arrangements. The seeds were a major crop of the Aztecs, and are very high in protein and other nutrients. Cook the beige seeds like rice. Young leaves are also edible- use them in salads or steamed. The birds will also enjoy the seeds!


Basil
Cardinal: Cardinal’s’ deep crimson blooms allow this basil variety to be utilized beyond its culinary qualities! Use it as a surprising accent in a mixed container, or use it as a cut flower! The fragrance is lovely. With its strong scent, a little goes a long way in the kitchen. A wonderful dual-purpose herb.
Purple Petra: A deep purple, this basil adds vibrant color to any dish! A more mild basil- great for those who just want the essence of basil in their cooking. ‘Purple Petra’ can be used to make an elegant pink-tinted vinegar also! Use it as a companion plant to your nightshade veggies or as a statement plant in an herbal ensemble or annual flower container.
Purple Opal: Opal Basil has eye-catching purple leaves, and will bloom during the summer with light pink flowers. Feel free to fall in love with this variety! Grow it just for its rich beauty or for its culinary uses. Highly flavorful, this basil variety has flavor notes of cinnamon, anise, mint, and clove!
Siam Queen Thai: This beautiful basil has a complex sweet and spicy flavor with a hint of anise. Broadly used in Thai and Vietnamese dishes- it is versatile! It is easy to grow and highly ornamental with its dark amethyst blooms. Flower farms also grow Thai basil, for cut bouquets. Include it in your garden flower bunch and enjoy the unique fragrance. Bees also love this stuff!
Sweet Thai: Thai basil is of course a popular herb in many Southeast Asian cuisines, and is most regularly highlighted in a warm bowl of Vietnamese pho. This variety holds its flavor and texture through cooking more than other basils. Lovely in salads or when eaten fresh. Sweet Thai’s dark purple flowers and intoxicating scent allow it to double as an excellent addition to the flower garden. Produces well in containers also.


Beans
Royal Burgundy (Bush): Royal Burgundy has yummy purple pods that are easy to spot among green leaves. A wonderful variety to grow in cool weather and is unlikely to be challenged by bean beetles. A good container variety, as well as disease-resistant.
Trionfo Violetto (Pole): Trionfo Violetto’ translates to “purple triumph.” This Italian heirloom will win your heart, with its crisp and flavorful purple pods. While highly ornamental the plants are also highly prolific! The plants climb 6’–8′, and have prolific light amethyst flowers that bloom against green leaves that sport purple veins and stems. Similar to other purple beans, the pods magically turn green when they are cooked!


Beets
Bulls Blood: Plant one row of this beet variety for the beautiful greens, and another for the flavorful roots! ‘Bull’s Blood’ is valued for its tender, sweet, and deep red– almost plum foliage. Originally selected from a French heirloom for the darkest colored leaves, the 16″ “greens” are rich in nutrients! The roots are delicious as well, especially so, when harvested small. Use in succession planting as multiple crops are possible throughout a season.


Broccoli
Burgundy: This variety of broccoli is considered a “sprouting broccoli” since it produces one small main head, but then produces generous side shoots. Purple broccolis tend to be tender, flavorful, and full of antioxidants! ‘Burgundy’; is tolerant of a wider range of temperatures, which allows a longer harvest period. Some gardeners prefer to pinch the main floret off early on, to encourage more abundant side shoots. Also resistant to the disease, Fusarium yellows.


Cabbage
Red Acre: Jazz up cole slaw or any stir-fry with this gorgeous, deep-fuchsia cabbage! This variety has a very fresh and sweet flavor. Solid heads form early and grow on compact plants making ‘Red Acre’ an ideal choice for urban gardeners who may have limited space. Resistant to splitting as well as cabbage yellows disease. The heads store very well, in the refrigerator or a root cellar. A variety you must try!


Carrots
Cosmic Purple Carrots: While various colored carrots seem to be the new fad, they have been around for centuries. In fact, the purple carrot has been around for at least 1,000 years! While previously unpopular compared to orange carrots, purple carrots have been rediscovered, and rightfully so! Besides being high in vitamin A, purple carrots contain anthocyanins (an antioxidant) that are common in blueberries. Kids will love them!


Eggplants
Black Beauty: A beautiful nearly black vegetable with lovely, lavender blossoms pretty enough to grow in the flower garden! ‘Black Beauty’ has set the standard since 1902 for large and high-quality fruit. When harvested at its peak, the skin is tender, so no need to peel it; making it perfect for eggplant parmesan, ratatouille, and grilling!
Finger Fruit Purple: Grow fast-producing clusters of beautiful eggplants on your patio or a sunny corner of your vegetable plot! These 4-6″ fruits contain few seeds and have thin, tender skin—perfect for stir-fries and roasting. A plethora of royal purple fruits on just 22-38″ tall plants make this variety a perfect fit for containers and small gardens.
Jewel Amethyst: ‘Jewel Amethyst’ is perfect for containers, since it has a tidy habit. You will also notice its growing pattern makes harvesting a joy! The oval, purple fruits are best harvested when about 3”–4 ½” long, to stay tender. Harvest regularly from this variety to keep eggplant producing throughout the season.
Long Purple: This long, slender variety, is not usually found in grocery stores, and is a treat! Sometimes called ‘Italian Long Purple’, this prolific heirloom will bring beautiful ruby-purple color to the garden and savory goodness to the table. Enjoy in a wide variety of dishes!


Kohlrabi
Early Purple Vienna: Early Purple Vienna kohlrabi is an easy-to-grow cool weather crop that forms a distinctive dusty lilac bulb with pale flesh above ground. A beautiful plant! Peel its crunchy bulb and enjoy it raw or cooked. Leaves are also edible- eat similarly to collards, or other steamed greens. Kohlrabi is high in fiber, making it an excellent veggie for overall gut health. Kohlrabi is also high in isothiocyanates and glucosinolates, which are powerful antioxidants, thought to lower the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and inflammation. Keeps well in the fridge.


Lettuces/ Greens
Brentwood Lettuce: This variety produces pretty burgundy lettuce leaves making for some beautiful salads! The heads produce high yields in compact spaces, and their bolt resistance allows for a long harvest. Also resistant to downy mildew, lettuce leaf aphid, and Fusarium wilt.
Dazzling Blue Kale: You will be mesmerized by the beautiful colors of this extra-cold-hardy kale. It is even more cold-tolerant than other lacinato types. The purple midrib pops against the blue-green leaves, some of which may take on more purple hues in the cool temperatures of fall. Lacinato kale is ideal for kale salads. Pick tender, baby greens for fresh salads, chips, or sauteing, in just 30 days!
Marvel of Four Seasons: Tasty and attractive, this 1800s French heirloom is also known as Merveille de Quatre Saisons. The variety has sweet and tender leaves that are chartreuse green at the base, turning to a beautiful cranberry-red, and forming a crinkly rosette! Gorgeous! Rosettes are 8″–12″ in diameter and good for large containers.
Red Russian Kale: Typically, kale gets sweeter after the first fall frost. ‘Red Russian’, on the other hand, is sweet and tender all the time. The lavender veins are part of what makes ‘Red Russian’ as attractive as it is delicious. Harvest baby greens in just 21 days!
Truchas Mini Romaine: This deep-merlot, mini-romaine is a game-changer for salads! ‘Truchas’ is compact and easy to grow in small spaces. It also creates gorgeous contrasts with green lettuce. Uniform leaves stay upright in the garden and make for easy plant cleanup. Has disease resistance to downy mildew, lettuce die-back, and lettuce mosaic virus.


Nasturtium
Black Velvet: These edible beauties add glamorous, ruby-black color to your salads and cheese plates! All parts of the flower (leaves, seeds, stems and flowers) are edible! Garnish tacos, avocado toasts, and pasta dishes with these beauties! Excellent as a companion plant to your tomatoes, and they repel several pests. Gorgeous in containers as well.
Tom Thumb Black Velvet: Tom Thumb features velvety, nearly black flowers with contrasting bright green foliage! Compact plants make this an outstanding choice for the border and containers. All parts of the flower (Leaves, seeds, stems and flowers) are edible! Add flowers to charcuterie boards, gazpachos, strewn on roasted root veggies, or create vinegar from them, for various culinary experiences!


Okra
Red Burgundy: Whether you eat okra or not, this plant is worth growing, just for the beauty of it! The pods are deep crimson edging toward maroon and are preceded by gorgeous yellow flowers that the bees love. This is the most productive red variety and will produce tender, 6″-long pods that are delicious in soup, gumbo, and stew, or deep-fried.


Shiso
Green and Red Shiso Perilla: An absolute must for herb gardens! Also called Japanese basil or the beefsteak plant, shiso’s incredible flavor can be described as a combination of cinnamon, mint, and clove with notes of cumin. A beautiful, heat- and drought-tolerant bedding plant that attracts pollinators, and is excellent for containers. This packet provides 75% green shiso and 25% red (shows up as a deep mulberry color).


Snap Pea
Sugar Magnolia: Wow, a purple snap pea that is tender and delicious! Enjoy the pretty purple blooms first, then the purple pea pods. Eat them without shelling, dipped in hummus, in a salad, or in stir-fries! Long hypertendrils (vigorous, multi-branching tendrils) support the 6′-7′ vining plants. This growing pattern creates an airy structure that helps prevent mildew. Some of these open-pollinated peas may be flecked with green, or be fully green.


Tomatillo
Purple: A purple tomatillo! Not only delicious but alluring also. The purple fruits are much sweeter than the green types and rich in antioxidants. Let the fruit remain on the plant as long as possible until the papery husks split for the best flavor and color. Tomatillos grow best in conditions similar to tomatoes (because they are related) but will handle a lot more heat. Tomatillos require cross-pollination so plant at least two plants in your garden to ensure good fruit production


Tomatoes
Black Krim: This Russian pole heirloom originated in Krymsk on the Black Sea in Russia. Baseball-sized fruits weigh 10–12 ounces and have dark reddish-brown flesh filled with a rich, slightly savory flavor. Fruit sets well in heat and is a reliable “black” tomato, producing even under adverse conditions from summer to fall. Make sure to stake or cage, as the plants can reach 6′ or more!
Cherokee Purple: Cherokee Purple’ is said to have been given to a Tennessee family by the Cherokees over 100 years ago. This dark maroon tomato has just the right balance of sweetness and even a hint of smoke, making it a winner in taste competitions. From summer into fall, you will harvest lots of 10–12 oz. tomatoes from this well-regarded heirloom variety. Make sure to stake or cage, as the plants can reach 6′ or more!
Chocolate Cherry: Chocolate Cherry tomatoes—Yum! These 1″ purplish-red, delicious tomatoes are great for snacking on and add a bit of sweetness to salads and pasta. The prolific vines bear seemingly endless trusses with 6–8 ounce fruits that will bring you back for harvest after harvest. Fruit is crack-resistant! Make sure to stake or cage.


Watermelon
Sugar Baby: The taste of summer? Watermelon! As the name suggests, ‘Sugar Baby’ is sweet, sweet, sweet! It is also small enough to easily fit in the refrigerator. This plant produces a bountiful crop of 8–10 pound deep dark emerald green orbs that have juicy red flesh.


Zucchini
Black Beauty: Black Beauty is an early maturing zucchini-type squash that features delicious deep black to green fruits with pale flesh. A very easy-to-grow bush variety that is highly productive all summer long. Enjoy grilled, sauteed, fresh, in soups, or zucchini bread!

Fall Perennial Planting

Planting in the fall can save you a lot of money while also giving plants a jump start next spring! Plants that establish strong roots during the fall will come back bigger and stronger in the spring time.

However, fall planting requires careful consideration and attention to detail from the gardener. The trick is to give fall plantings a little extra care to help them get established before the really cold weather sets in.

Here are four things you can do to help your plants get established:

Soil Inoculant

At the time of planting, be sure to use an inoculant specifically formulated for perennials, trees and shrubs. These products will help the plant to start establishing roots before all of the foliage dies back. We recommend using an inoculant over a root stimulator this late in the season so you can avoid giving any extra nitrogen to the plant before it goes in to dormancy.

Mulch

Mulch helps to retain soil moisture while also protecting roots from sudden changes in temperature. We recommend using 3″ of a good quality mulch to keep plants protected. Make sure that mulch does not contact the bark of woody perennials.

Protect Plants from Early Freezes

Keep an eye on the weather and cover the plants when the temperatures dip below freezing throughout September and October. This is most important for perennials. Trees do not need to be blanketed, but bark wrap should be used on all young trees to protect the trunks from splitting during our freezing and thawing cycles. When covering perennials, use heavy fabric or plastic and prop it up so that it is close to, but does not touch the plant (Plastic that touches the plant during a freeze can actually do more damage.) Be sure the covering goes all the way to the ground and cover the edges with soil or mulch so that it will trap heat from the soil.

Water

To support adequate root growth, plants will need to be watered regularly in the fall. Keep your soil evenly moist, but not soggy, through the fall time. Remember to monitor your plants regularly! A plant that crisps up due to lack of water in the fall time is not likely to survive the winter. When the plant goes dormant, they will require less frequent watering, but will also need to be watered throughout the winter. Remember that desiccation is the result of cold weather plus dry soil. For more details on winter watering, visit our Blog.

Growing Garlic in the Pikes Peak Region

Garlic is a crop that is fun to grow and does best when planted in the fall. There are many interesting varieties, so take your time choosing a variety that suits your taste and cooking preferences. When to Plant Garlic Garlic grows best in the Pikes Peak Region when planted in the fall – typically in late October – when the soil temperatures are too cool to cause the garlic to sprout but still warm enough to allow the bulb to establish some roots before going dormant for the winter. Choosing a Garlic Variety to Plant There are two main subspecies of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck varieties are most similar to wild garlic and also produce a delicious flowering stalk, known as a scape, that can be eaten raw or cooked. Hardneck varieties tend to be more flavorful, have larger cloves, and are easier to peel. Hardneck varieties may be purple, purple striped or white. Each cultivar has a distinctive flavor ranging from mild to very hot. Softneck varieties do not produce a flowering stalk, but they can be braided. These varieties typically produce bulbs with 10 to 40 smaller cloves. Softnecks have a longer shelf life than the hardneck varieties, making them popular with grocery stores. Soil Preparation Garlic is best grown in a well-drained soil as it won’t tolerate wet feet. Garlic thrives in soil that is high in organic matter, so a raised bed is an ideal location for growing it. Be sure to amend the soil with well-rotted manure or preferably a quality compost. If possible, spread 1 to 2 inches of compost over the entire planting area and work it into the first few inches of soil. As with most garden crops, garlic grows best when the soil pH is between 6 and 7. If you amend the soil with manure or compost before planting, no further fertilizer is needed until spring. Garlic should not be planted in the same spot year to year; the crop should be rotated. How to Plant, Harvest & Store Garlic
  • Garlic cloves are best planted between November and April, although you will generally get a bigger and better crop if you plant in the autumn. If planted between October 1 and November 15, the clove will have a chance to develop some roots before it goes dormant for the winter. Here at Rick’s, we think the ideal time to plant is at the end of October.
  • Separate cloves from the bulb and plant root side down (pointed side up) about 2-4 inches deep, 6-8 inches apart in the row and 12-18 inches between rows. A bulb planter used for tulips and daffodils is an excellent tool to get several cloves planted quickly.
  • Mulching 6-12 inches of straw or mulch in mid to late November, when the ground begins to freeze, will ensure the garlic will survive the cold temperatures.
  • In early spring as the ground thaws, look for the green tips beginning to emerge underneath the you mulch.
  • Fertilize in spring with a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 (3 lb per 100 sq. feet), or an organic complete fertilizer at roughly twice the rate, as usually they contain roughly half the nitrogen as chemical fertilizers.
  • As half of the leaves begin to die-back in July, harvest the garlic by gently pulling on the stalk while prying beneath the bulb with a trowel. The clove you planted last fall will have turned into a multi-cloved bulb. Gently shake off the dirt but do not wash before storage. Don’t wait until all the leaves have died-back or your bulbs will not store well.
  • Cure the garlic by hanging in a warm, dry, well ventilated place.
  • Give the bulbs another shake after two weeks of curing to remove more soil, cut off the stalks of hardneck varieties and store them in a cool, dry place. For softneck varieties, you can leave the stalks attached if you wish to braid and hang them for ease of use and aesthetics in the kitchen – but you may also cut off the stalks and store them with the hardneck varieties.
  • Save some of your biggest bulbs for planting next fall.
Varieties Available at Rick’s for Fall 2021 Planting All of our seed garlic is locally grown in Avondale, CO and is certified organic. Metechi garlic is a hardneck with a robust flavor and sharp bite. One of the hottest garlics raw, cooking tones down heat while keeping tons of flavor. One of the best garlics for roasting.  Easy to peel, long-storing. Pueblo Early garlic is an artichoke variety softneck derived from California Early. Medium tame flavor, very large heads, good all-purpose garlic. Very adaptable. Stores until spring under cool, dry storage conditions. Inchelium Red garlic is a softneck artichoke variety, once the softneck variety winner for best flavor. Mild buttery flavor at harvest, flavor increases with storage to mild heat. Properly cured, may store up to 10 months.. Silverwhite garlic is a softneck variety, typically the last to mature each season and stores the longest. Richly garlic flavor. High yields of large, mild-flavored bulbs. Popular softneck in grocery stores and for braiding.

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