Purple carrots have been around since the beginning of time, but we are just starting to appreciate their beauty.
Carrots were first cultivated in Afghanistan approximately 1,100 years ago and the flesh of these carrots was purple. It wasn’t until the 16th century when the Dutch starting selecting specific carrot seeds that bred specifically for an orange colored carrot. Prior to this time carrots were broken down into two categories:
1. Eastern/Asiatic Carrots
The taproots of these carrots had traditional purple flesh due to the anthocyanins which are naturally occurring pigments in the tissue of the plant. Yellow carrots were also part of this grouping. The foliage was typically grey-green and these varieties had a tendency to bolt quicker than newer genetics.
The taproots of these carrots were red, orange or white. It is thought that this group derived from the Eastern carrots through selection. The red and orange carrots are considered natural mutations of yellow carrots. Western carrots were also referred to as carotene carrots and are throught to have been first cultivated in the Netherlands during the 16th or 17th century. White carrots are the closest related to the wild carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace) in coloration.
Purple carrots are very natural, however, the initial colors of carrots is starting to become more apparent to multiple gardeners and common consumers. Although in the United States carrots are typically orange in other regions in the world they differ in color. Those gorgeous differences are starting to be seen and celebrated among the gardening and food communities growing the demand for such colorful snacks.
Now that we know that purple carrots are natural and originally what native carrots looked like. It is fun to explore all the seed options when it comes to this new addition to the garden.
Here are some varieties to research on. There are many different seed companies online. If one of the varieties below is what you are looking to add to your vegetable garden this year, simply doing a search will help you to find these introductions.
‘Purple Haze’ – This variety is an All-American Seed winner and the first purple Imperator-shaped carrot to be introduced. A great variety to get kids interested in eating their veggies as the centers are orange and encased with a purple exterior. Beautifully when cut into coins and placed on top of a raw salad or as crudité.
‘Pusa Asita Black’ – Coming from incredible breeding work done in India. This almost black carrot is delicious roasted with other root vegetables. The dark purple color is naturally occurring pigment in carrots called anthocyanins. Grows extremely well in rocky soil and well suited for southern gardens. Recommended to let some carrots go to flower to collect seeds and share with other gardeners for planting the next year.
‘Cosmic Purple’ – A favorite among gardeners and foodies for its fun purple exterior and orange to yellow interior. Said to have a spicier flavor compared to traditional carrots. Very easy to grow with great germination rates. A great conversation piece when having friends or family over for dinner parties.
‘Spanish Black’ – A gorgeous, heirloom variety that has purple outer flesh with the interior being white. This old world classic is becoming endangered in parts of Europe and highly recommended to plant both for harvest of roots and flowers. All carrots are biennial and this variety does take two years to produce seeds. Important to keep in mind while growing.
‘Purple Dragon’ – Very similar in look to ‘Purple Haze’. A tasty variety that is said to be both delicious to the mouth and the eyes. Has a very rich, intense purple exterior and an orange-yellow core.
Whatever the variety of purple carrots that you decide to grow – it will definitely be fun to share the information and harvest with your friends and family.