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Spring is about to start springing, and while many of us are jonesing for tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, there’s an entire season of vegetable gardening ahead before our nightshade friends get put into the ground. Spring is good for short crops—that is, vegetables that do well in colder weather, and don’t need a long time to harvest, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, peas, lots of greens, spinach, mustard, and all the radishes and carrots you can imagine. If that sounds like a sea of green, don’t fret: The possibilities for color in your spring garden are endless.

Plant these colorful cauliflower varieties

Don’t get me wrong, a massive head of white cauli with perfect blush tips looks like a harvest of clouds. Still, that’s a lot of white on your plate over and over again, so shake it up. Cauliflower now comes in an electrifying range of colors, notably purple, bright orange, and chartreuse. The colors hold well through cooking and will make your garden vibrant. For vivid butternut colored cauli, I grow two varieties: Clementine and Flame Star. When leaning into violet, I grow Depurple Cauliflower or Graffiti. To achieve that lime neon green, you’d grow Romanesco, which is actually a variant of broccoli. Since you’re growing all these different varieties, they’ll also be ready to harvest at different times, so you’ll have a longer window of fresh eating. 

Consider kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is the Pluto of vegetables. These satellite-looking orbs get overlooked, but they are spectacular garden guests and are delicious raw in a slaw or salad. I slice them thickly and grill them. They come in three colors: white, leafy green, and purple, and when you grow all three together, they make for a fantastic garden display. Purple Vienna produces fantastic violet suns with rays of leaves, while Kossack will give you the soft green, and Beas produces a shockingly bright white.  

A number of spring vegetables play in this color band. Asparagus, cabbage, broccoli and peas all come in green and purple varieties. 

Grow color below ground, too

While it won’t seem impressive in the garden, growing a full range of color for the plate is worth doing a little seed diversification below ground, as well. Potatoes come in all sorts of colors, and now is the time to start to think about planting them. Purple, pink, blue and red tones are all available at your local nursery or can be ordered online.

Beets are so useful in the kitchen, and you can grow vibrant varieties like Detroit Goldens, the candy cane stripes of Chiogga beets, and scarlet Red Ace.

Visit a local seed house

To explore all the colors available to you, you need to start digging into seed catalogs, and while there are a few with beautiful pictures, the best seed house is always the one closest to you. When a seed house has their test fields nearby, their seeds are most likely to grow well in your climate. To find a seed house near you, just google “seed company, [your state].” If you can find Native or Indigenous growers, even better. 

While one benefit of seed diversification is a more colorful harvest, it also means your crops are less vulnerable. If one variety doesn’t germinate, or if one variety gets hit with virus, fungus, or pests, you have others.

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