Home gardeners enjoy the benefit of planting their own choice of crops. Take more advantage of that by choosing fruit and vegetable varieties that are packed with nutrients and health benefits.
Learn more about comparing fruit and vegetable varieties in “Most Nutritious Crop Varieties.”
• ‘Spanish Roja’ garlic, like all garlic varieties, is a source of allicin, which can reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. This hardneck garlic is intense and spicy.
• ‘Southport Red Globe’ onion is an heirloom and excellent keeper that provides anthocyanins and quercetin.
• ‘Bonilla’ shallot provides, as all shallots do, more antioxidants than onions. Grow from seed and harvest the same year.
• ‘Akane’ is rich in phytonutrients. This Japanese variety is disease-resistant and a satisfying blend of sweet and tart.
• ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ contains 3 to 4 times more antioxidants than common varieties and is resistant to scab and mildew. This large, late-season apple deserves to be grown more widely.
• ‘Liberty’ has 2 to 3 times as many phytonutrients as typical varieties, and is resistant to apple scab and fire blight. The flavor is a balanced blend of tart and sweet.
• ‘Northern Spy’ has nutritious skin and flesh and is a good keeper that’s popular for pies. This 19th-century heirloom ripens for late-season harvests.
• ‘Jersey Knight’ is more healthful than most other green asparagus varieties.
• ‘Purple Passion’ is rich in anthocyanins. For maximum sweetness and health benefits, eat asparagus within one day of harvest.
• ‘Wild Treasure’ blackberry has high antioxidant activity. This prolific, thornless blackberry is tart and sweet, and is a cross between a wild trailing and an upright domestic variety.
• ‘Elliott’ blueberry provides more anthocyanins than most blueberry varieties. This large, late-season blueberry has great flavor.
• ‘Rancocas’ blueberry is a flavorful, medium-sized berry that’s rich in anthocyanins.
• ‘Rubel’ blueberry is one of the most nutritious blueberries. It’s smaller and intensely flavored, and it is a semi-wild blueberry.
• ‘Caroline’ raspberry contains nearly as many cancer-fighting antioxidants as the average blueberry. These disease-resistant berries ripen in June and then again in August, and are preferred by many chefs.
• ‘Ovation’ strawberry provides two times more antioxidant protection than most strawberry varieties. Larger than ‘Sweet Charlie,’ this late-maturing straw-berry variety helps extend the season.
• ‘Sweet Charlie’ strawberry is higher in antioxidants than most other strawberries, and is ready to harvest mid-season.
• ‘Deep Purple’ is the richest in anthocyanins of all purple carrots. It’s purple throughout, so serve with orange carrots for contrast.
• ‘Cosmic Purple’ is sweet and extra-nutritious. It’s purple with an orange core.
• ‘Purple Haze’ is a Nantes-type carrot that’s purple with an orange core.
• 'Ruby Queen’ is a super-sweet, red variety that, unlike white and yellow corn, provides anthocyanins.
• 'Packman’ broccoli is an extra-nutritious, green variety, for which seeds and starts are widely available. After you harvest or purchase broccoli, keep cold and eat within 24 hours to maximize your health benefits.
• ‘Purple Sprouting’ broccoli is rich in anthocyanins and cancer-fighting compounds. Pick the small heads that come back after the first harvest. This variety is great for supplying a fresh broccoli harvest for months.
• ‘Graffiti’ cauliflower is a purple, large-headed variety rich in anthocyanins and cancer-fighting glucosinolates. For optimum nutrition, eat cauliflower raw or lightly steamed.
• ‘Concord’ is a blue grape that may lower blood pressure and enhance memory in people with early-stage dementia. A seedless version of this variety is now available.
• ‘Glenora’ is a black, seedless grape that’s rich in anthocyanins and ripens early.
• 'All Blue’ has blue skin and flesh and is rich in anthocyanins.
• ‘French Fingerling’ contains 50 times more antioxidants than the common, white ‘Kennebec.’ This disease-resistant potato has red skin with cream-colored flesh.
• ‘Mountain Rose’ has antioxidant content similar to that of ‘French Fingerling,’ but this versatile, red-skinned potato has a reddish-pink interior.
• ‘Purple Peruvian’ provides more anthocyanins than any other potato. This heirloom from Peru dates back 1,000 years and has purple skin and amethyst-purple flesh. It comes in lumpy shapes and variable sizes.
• The top varieties are ‘Blackjack,’ ‘Cocarde,’ ‘Concept,’ ‘Four Seasons,’ 10. ‘Lollo Rosso,’ ‘Merlot,’ ‘Prizehead,’ ‘Radicchio di Treviso,’ ‘Red Iceberg,’ and ‘Red Oakleaf.’
The most healthful choices are red loose-leaf varieties, followed by green loose-leaf varieties with a reddish fringe.
• Gardener’s Delight’ is a bite-sized cherry tomato with a texture that’s ideal for adding to salads and sandwiches.
• ‘Indigo Rose’ has anthocyanins and lycopene. This small, stunningly black tomato is late to ripen. Harvest when bottoms turn red.
• ‘Juliet’ is a large cherry tomato that’s high in lycopene, tastes sweet, and is easy to dry.
• ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’ is a small, wild cherry tomato that was discovered in Mexico. This flavor bomb is high in lycopene and rangy in growth.
• ‘Sugar Lump’ is a sweet and nutritious cherry tomato that’s high in lycopene.
Jo Robinson is a journalist who has spent years researching and growing extra-nutritious foods. Her book, Eating on the Wild Side, is available at the Mother Earth Living store.