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More Colors For Carrots (page 2 of 3)

by John Navazio

Mellow Yellows

Yellow carrots have long been valued in Europe as a winter storage vegetable and are now becoming available in North America as well. The color comes from a group of pigments known as xanthophylls, several of which are phytonutrients containing health-promoting properties. 'Sweet Sunshine', a blunt Chantenay type, matures in 72 days and grows well in heavy or shallow soils. They are nice and crisp, and sweeter than many of the standard orange varieties even in the summer."

'Lubiana' is another exceptional yellow variety. This cone-shaped Danvers-type matures in 75 days and features vigorous tall tops that shade out the weeds after only one early cultivation. Although a bit dry and almost starchy-tasting when first pulled from the ground, 'Lubiana' sweetens with age and stores well. It actually tastes best after a couple of months in winter storage, during which the carbohydrates turn into sugars.

True Reds

Red carrots are still used in parts of Asia and now have converts in North America. As part of a traditional New Year's dish in Japan, they are served cooked and sliced with other root vegetables. In India they are frequently cooked in clarified butter (ghee), to bring out their beautiful deep ruby red color. The pigment responsible for this color is the phytonutrient lycopene, the same pigment found in tomatoes and watermelons. When consumed on a regular basis, this phytonutrient has been shown to lower the risk of prostate cancer.

Red carrots look and taste best cooked, offering a rich, earthy, almost zesty flavor. The only red variety currently available is 'Nutri-Red', an Imperator type that matures in 80 days. "It's best harvested when the roots are the diameter of your index finger and 4 to 5 inches long," says Joel Reiten, plant breeder with Territorial Seeds of Cottage Grove, Oregon.

Wonderful Whites

White is a unique color for carrots and, to the untrained eye, the roots can be easily confused with parsnips or daikon. The white color is due to an absence of pigments; hence, these carrots don't contain the phytonutrients associated with pigments. Although best known as a fodder crop in Europe, white carrots have a small but loyal following in France and Belgium, where they are used in soups and stews. Unlike other carrots, they have tall "shoulders" that grow as much as 3 to 4 inches out of the ground and turn green with chlorophyll. But according to David Cohlmeyer of Cookstown Greens, an organic farm near Toronto, Ontario, the green shoulders are safe to eat and the flesh underneath is sweet and delicious. Cohlmeyer, who has grown many colorful carrots for top chefs in Toronto, likes 'Belgian White', a long-season Flakkee type that matures in 90 days. "When cooked, they have a very aromatic, quintessential carrot flavor and a soft texture, much like celeriac."

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