While we may be feeling the pinch of a tough economy, we can turn to gardening for comfort, pride, and lunch! Gardening can feed the spirit and replace negative energy with positive vibes. It is not only rewarding, but if we incorporate gorgeous veggies, right into our existing ornamental gardens it can help put fresh organic food on the table. Don’t worry if you don’t have room or the desire for an entirely separate vegetable garden. And don’t give up beauty for function. Numerous vegetable are also highly ornamental and fit nicely into our mixed gardens right among our beloved perennials and shrubs. They can also be used in containers in company with colorful annuals. Now during the winter you can begin planning your garden for next year. Select plants that will not require chemicals for pest or disease control and rely on organics to feed the soil rather than using synthetic chemicals. Look for vegetables with outstanding foliage color, texture, and or form. Some of my favorites include: Redbor Kale (Brassica oleracea Redbor Hybrid) this gorgeous kale can reach 2’ in height and has amazing finely-curled red-violet leaves which are not only a designer’s dream (photo) they are also sweet and tender. I’ve used it in combination with Perilla f. ‘Magilla’. Bull’s Blood Beet (Beta vulgaris ‘Bull’s Blood’) a beautiful beet reaching about 12-15” that I’ve adored using in mixed gardens. ’s particularly nice with, the also edible peppery, soft yellow flowers of Moonlight Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus ‘Moonlight’). Bull’s Blood beet bears deep reddish-purple leaves that are very sweet and delicious and the young leaves look incredible in salads. Of course it produces an edible globose “beet” as well! Red/Ruby Orach or Mountain Spinach (Atriplex hortensis) grown since the 19th century, can reach 4-6’ tall or more and makes a nice vertical accent among tall perennials like giant coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima). The zesty flavored leaves can be used like spinach although plants tolerate heat and cold temperatures better than spinach. Red Orach is an annual but plants can reseed and come back for many years. Dark Lolla Rossa Lettuce (Lactuca sativa varieties) this brilliant deep red ruffles lettuce looks as stunning in the garden as it does on the plate. There are so many attractive varieties of lettuce to tuck in among your perennials from speckled to oak leaf forms be creative and have fun. And if you are looking for a striking unusual edible vine that blends nicely on any decorative arbor, trellis or obelisk go for Red Malabar Spinach (Basella rubra). This again is not a true spinach but a cool looking heat –loving Asian vine with red stems and tasty, succulent leaves for stir-fries or salads. Don’t forget some of our prettiest flowers are also edible and add an amazing flourish to any dish. There are also some striking herbs for our ornamental gardens. Let me know if you would like me to write about these plants in future blogs. In the meantime, enjoy all the beauty, as well as mental, physical and emotional benefits of gardening , while also providing delicious organic food for yourself and your family.