Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Black Carrot

Did you know that originally most carrots in cultivation were a deep purple, almost black, in color?


Mutant yellow and white varieties sprung up through the years, but it wasn't until the 17th century that orange carrot varieties were developed by Dutch farmers.


Purple carrots are now making a comeback, however, due to the interest in heirloom varieties.  Furthermore, purple carrots are extremely high in anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants.  It is these anthocyanins that give the vegetable its purple color (similar to blueberries, blackberries, and plums).  Breeders are now working with purple carrot strains to develop new cultivars with more of these antioxidant properties, and one of these new carrots is the Pusa Asita Black Carrot, which I grew in my garden this past summer.

Pusa Asita Black Carrot
This carrot was developed by Dr. Pritam Kalia, the head of the Division of Vegetable Science at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi.   Dr. Kalia has been working on developing varieties of vegetables that are both very nutrient-rich and also open pollinated, so that small farmers (who often cannot afford buying hybrid seed every year) can grow these and improve their nutrition.  The very nutritious Pusa Asita carrot is so rich with anthocyanins that it is practically black.


Much like beets, the juice of the Pusa Asita is a deep, staining, reddish purple, and would look beautiful in a juice or drink.  (In fact there is a traditional Indian fermented drink called Kanji that uses purple carrots to give it a beautiful wine color.)  I could see its color being more of a challenge when cooking it with other foods though.


So how did it do in my garden?  Well, honestly the germination rate of the seeds was extremely low.  I appreciate that Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, the place where I purchased them from, recognized this and sent everyone another pack of seeds.  I only planted the first packet, though, as I ran out of room in my veggie garden, and ended up with just a mere handful of black carrots.


They are certainly beautiful carrots, but the taste?  I was unimpressed with the taste of mine and thought them rather bland.  However, this may be due to the fact that they were overrun by my tomatillo plants and got more shade (which can make them less sweet), or my watering or soil conditions were not as good (both of which can affect taste).  Either way, they were not nearly as sweet as my orange carrot varieties.  I've found online reviews of the taste of this carrot to be quite mixed.

Maybe it's just too nutritious and healthy for my taste?

26 comments:

  1. perhaps better to use in a smoothie?
    It does look unusual

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    1. It would probably be great in a smoothie. And turn it a very pretty color!

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  2. I just ordered some carrots called 'dragon' that have reddish-purple skin and orange insides. They are said to be slightly spicy and sweet. Your carrots look a much deeper purple. I bet they would be nice in a salad or smoothie. Thanks for all the info!

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    1. Ooo, I've seen that one in catalogs! That would be a fun one to try!

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  3. Fascinating. I had known that some carrots are purple or near black, but I didn't realize the earliest ones were naturally that color. They do remind me of long beets. Thanks for the review. I don't grow carrots because of my limited sun, but if I ever have a sunny garden again, now I'll know more about the purple ones.

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    1. I like to plant some unusual colored ones, as it's fun for the kids. I've planted white and yellow carrots before too. I think the best tasting ones have still been orange, though - people have probably been breeding the orange ones for taste far longer than the other types.

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  4. Hi, Indie!
    I've never seen black carrots, it's interesting!
    Happy belated New year!
    Nadezda
    http://northern-garden.blogspot.ru/

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    1. Happy New Year, Nadezda! It was my first time seeing black carrots, too - you usually don't find those in the grocery store!

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  5. Thank gawd for the Dutch cuz a black carrot just doesn't look appetizing to me.

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    1. Ha! This one is especially black. I think the other, more regular purple carrots are prettier. I've always loved the strange ones, though :)

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  6. Interesting post, Indie. I never knew carrots were all purple at one time. That is a surprise to me, even though I do know of all the fancy carrots today. Gourmet markets usually have them.

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    1. I was surprised, too, when I found that out. I would have thought they would have been yellow or something more similar to orange!

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  7. Hello Dear Sweet Friend
    Beautiful are your greens.
    I love beets. They are very delicious.
    Greetings.
    Lucia

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    1. Thank you, Lucia! I think they would be so great for color for juice and smoothies.

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  8. I have had zero luck growing carrots, of any color. But I think a dish with mixed black and orange carrots could be tasty!

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    1. It's probably all that clay down there! I still have a lot of clay up here, mixed in with the rocks, so my carrots do much better in raised beds. A mixed dish would be quite pretty!

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  9. Interesting color. Did you also try the red carrots from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds?

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    1. No, I haven't tried the red carrots yet. Every year I like to pick different types to try, though so far the best tasting carrots I've grown have been the orange Nantes Scarlet variety.

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  10. Fascinating that the original color was almost black.....loved learning that. I have some I hope to plant this year. I usually do a mix of white, orange and purple. I find the non-orange carrots have a milder flavor.

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    1. I've done a mix with white and yellow carrots and found them to be milder, though not too much different than the orange ones. This is the first time I've grown purple carrots. I think I'll try a different variety next year!

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  11. I grew purple carrots one year just for fun and they didn't do that well, either. But it was cool pulling a purple carrot out of the pot! :o)

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    1. Yeah, it's a lot of fun! Something different. My kids are helping me pick what veggies we're going to grow next year. So far we have purple cauliflower, purple beans, yellow carrots... veggies are sure going to be different next year!

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  12. Indie, I've never seen a black carrot! I should plant some and see the look on my husband's face when he pulls them up. Too bad the germination rate wasn't fantastic, but I am really intrigued. :-)

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    1. I recently bought some carrots that were purple on the outside with a core of white. Those were both cool looking and nice and sweet. I wish I could find out what type of carrots they were!

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  13. I have seen these on TV – and a lot of other different carrot colours. Never tasted any of them, and I haven’t grown carrots for almost 30 years. A lot of work when growing for just one person, think I will stick to tomatoes and strawberries.

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    1. I grow them mainly for the kids as I'm actually not a big carrot fan. I do like winter carrots, though, as those are sweeter are more flavorful.

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