Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Color Purple

Purple carrots have all the tasty benefits of their orange counterparts, and then some.

By Denise Foley


Purple carrots aren't simply a novelty. Their unique color reflects their healthy phytochemical constituents. Not only does 'Purple Haze' have the vitamin A and beta-carotene of ordinary carrots—evident in its orange center—it's also rich in anthocyanins, the antioxidant compounds that give blueberries their distinctive color and superfood health benefits. Studies have found that these blue and purple pigments can improve memory, enhance vision, protect against heart attacks, act as anti-inflammatories, and even help control weight.

'Purple Haze' mirrors the original color of carrots cultivated in Afghanistan 5,000 years ago. It grows well in most zones but prefers soil temperatures of 59°F to 68°F to create its spectacular purple skin. Otherwise grow as for other imperator (tapering) carrots. 'Purple Haze' matures in 65 to 70 days. Pull the roots (wet the ground to make harvest easier) when the shoulders are deep purple.

In cold climates, carrots can be left in the ground even through winter, beneath a deep mulch of hay or straw. In warm climates, however, carrots left in the ground are vulnerable to insect pests, so it is best to make successional sowings and harvest carrots as they mature. Store them in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag, with the foliage trimmed off. Don't store them near apples or pears, which give off gases that turn carrots bitter.

Cooking Suggestions

'Purple Haze' carrots are sweet and delicious raw or cooked, but they lose much of their gorgeous color when boiled. For that reason, serve them fresh from the garden whenever possible. Slice 'Purple Haze' into medallions, mix with other colorful carrots, and serve with dill dip, or grate and toss with white cabbage and orange carrots for a colorful coleslaw. Coat whole or sliced carrots with a little olive oil, sprinkle with fresh or dried thyme, and roast until soft, which enhances their inherent sweetness. For a sweet side dish, saute carrots lightly in olive oil and serve them with a maple glaze; for a savory twist, add yellow or purple onions that have been sauteed until soft.

Other Colorful Carrots

'Purple Dragon'. 65 to 70 days. 6 inches.

'Atomic Red'. 76 days. Rich in the anti-oxidant lycopene. 9 inches.

'Solar Yellow'. 63 days. Totally yellow, crunchy and sweet; high levels of lutein, which can improve eye health. 7 inches. 

'Lunar White'. 60 days. Almost entirely coreless; has a mild flavor, especially when picked small. Crunchy. 8 inches.

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