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.
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.
|Pusa Asita Black Carrot|
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?