Deep Purple Shepherd’s Stew

purple stew
No photos were edited for this blog post. If anything, that color is a bit muted.

There’s really nothing special about it. Some lamb, some carrots, some potatoes and onions, parsley and thyme and garlic.

But it’s purple!

One of the joys of growing your own food is the delightful variety. My family loves to focus on color when we plant vegetables. Really, we’re also focusing on nutrition, because specific nutrients coincide with specific colors in produce. For instance, orange and yellow indicate beta carotene. Purple indicates high levels of anthocyanins, a strong antioxidant. The more purple, the higher the levels. That’s why blueberries are so healthy.

It doesn't have to be a ladylike carrot. Just a purple one.
It doesn’t have to be a ladylike carrot. Just a purple one.

First, take a crockpot. Chop up 1-2 pounds of lamb. Pour in a can of beef or vegetable stock. Turn onto low and cook for at least an hour.

Then, chop up 4 or 5 purple carrots and add those in. The deeper purple, the more purple color your food will be. The color in purple carrots does NOT cook out. I’ve had some very lavender curry because I used a couple of purple carrots.

Add a red onion… which is, actually, purple. The color of the onions isn’t going to help the color of the stew much, but you might as well coordinate, right?

Cook that for awhile, until the carrots are just starting to turn tender. Add a few cloves of garlic. What the heck? Make it Italian Purple garlic. Salt your stew. Add fresh herbs. Add more beef or vegetable stock, if necessary, to keep everything submerged.

Rainbow Potatoes, September 2012
Rainbow Potatoes, September 2012

Now it’s time for a pound or so of purple potatoes! I like to grow Purple Majesty because of the intense color. You can see a freshly cut Purple Majesty there. If you cut these then boil them, you’ll get lavender mashed potatoes. If you bake them whole, you’ll get royal purple baked potatoes. Beautiful, aren’t they? Wash and chop your potatoes, and add them to your stew. Cook it all until the potatoes are tender.

Do you like a thick, gravy-like stew? When it’s almost done, add some flour. Either standard flour or gluten-free works fine. Whisk it in, then let the stew boil to thicken up.

Now… invite friends over for dinner, and hope they’re open-minded. Deep purple shepherd’s stew tastes just like the regular kind, but it’s rather shocking to see.

My kids have gotten used to odd food colors. We have green, yellow, and “black tomatoes.” Purple, pink, yellow, and white potatoes. Carrots and Swiss chard in five colors each. Because, when you grow your own food, there’s a reason to do it. If I’m growing to compete with grocery store prices, at least I can produce a rainbow of vegetables that the store can’t even begin to offer!

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