Colorful Carrots

August 7, 2006

A friend was surprised recently when I commented that carrots aren’t always orange in color.

You may also be surprised to discover just how many different colors of carrots the resourceful gardener can grow in an ornamental vegetable garden.

Exciting New Colors from an Ancient Root Crop

In addition to the usual shade of orange there are some pretty far out colors that you can use to compliment your favorite recipes and add interest to your meals. There are red carrots, purple ones, even yellow, white, and two-toned varieties that will add more interest to the garden and to your diet.

Don’t worry these “new” shades aren’t simply the result of a plant breeder mixing genetic material to develop modern hybrid varieties. In fact some of the colorful carrots are actually heirlooms that have been around longer than the common orange varieties that were planted by our parents and grandparents.

The seed catalogs describe the taste of these colorful carrot varieties as having a spicier flavor but the ones that I’ve sampled have tasted pretty close to the normal everyday varieties. Another similarity is that these unusual looking carrots can be cultivated in the same manner that you’ve been growing ordinary carrot varieties.

More to Carrot Colors than Meets the Eye

Sure it would be nice to take advantage of these ornamental carrots to treat the family to something new, or to impress dinner guests with an attractive and tasty dish that they had never seen. How about a patriotic relish tray consisting of red, white, and dark purple carrot sticks? Buttery yellow-colored parsley carrot rounds, or a fresh salad adorned with colorful flakes of grated purple or red carrots?

Colorful carrots aren’t just appealing to the Martha Stewart types. A new trend in nutrition is to link colors with specific nutrients found in foods. For example orange has been associated with high levels of beta-carotene, while red is linked to the presence of healthful lycopene.

Plant nutrients and colors can then be associated with specific health conditions or nutritional deficiencies. Because there are many unidentified nutrients and compounds in our foods, color can be used as a marker or gauge to help ensure that we are obtaining a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to maintain good health. Just make sure that your meals include a range of different colored fresh foods.

Ornamental Carrots for the Home garden

Your local grocer may still only offer the traditional orange carrot varieties, but vegetable seed suppliers are adding new selections every season. Here are a few of the colorful carrots that I’ve noticed recently:

  • Solar Yellow Carrot – Sweet, juicy 6″ – 7″ long carrots with attractive yellow roots.
  • Belgian White Carrot – Mild flavored carrot with large white roots.
  • Atomic Red Carrot – These bright red 8″ roots are loaded with high amounts of lycopene.
  • Amarillo Yellow Carrot – Yellow variety with broad shoulders and tapered roots.
  • Cosmic Purple Carrot – Purple roots covering yellow to orange colored flesh.
  • Lunar White Carrot – This variety produces a pure white carrot inside and out.
  • Rainbow Carrot Mixture – Blend of hybrid yellow, white, and orange carrots offered by Johnny’s.
  • Purple Haze Carrot – A hybrid variety from Johnny’s, purple exterior with orange interior.
  • Purple Dragon Carrot – Another purple skinned carrot with a bright orange interior.

If you’d like to discover other unique vegetable varieties in colors that you might not recognize read the articles on Heirloom Vegetables and Tomato Varieties that were previously posted on this site.

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