Are There Red Carrots?

Red, orange and white carrots were the first colors to make it into western cuisine. It is possible that your ancestors grew and harvested these very colorful carrots before the orange variety was dominant in society.
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Photo by: Nathan E Jones

Nathan E Jones

Red carrots are what ancestors in the United States may have experienced or grew in their own garden.

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.

2.    Western Carrots

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 thought 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.

Red carrots are high in lycopene which is another form of carotene. Lycopene is also found in tomatoes and watermelon. Each different color carrot has nutritional properties that cause the colors in them. For instance, purple carrots are high in anthocyanins and orange carrots are high in beta-carotene. Whether you’re eating one color or the other, they are all extremely beneficial for the body.

Root Vegetables: Carrots, Beets, Parsnips

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Carrot ‘Parmex’

Dumpy, spherical roots make this one of the best carrots for sowing into patio pots or shallow soil. Despite their shape, they have a fine sweet flavor. The earliest crops can be sown under glass or protected with cloches.

Sow: Early to late spring
Harvest: Late spring to early fall
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Carrot 'Infinity’ F1

This late maincrop carrot has an elegant, slender root that is delicious raw or cooked. The sweet carrots are deep orange right to their core and keep well in the soil into fall or can be lifted and stored successfully.

Sow: Early spring to midsummer
Harvest: Late summer to late fall
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Carrot ‘Purple Haze’ F1

As its name suggests, this variety has unconventional dark purple roots, which reveal contrasting orange cores when they are sliced. Flavor is not sacrificed and is particularly good when raw.

Sow: Early spring to early summer
Harvest: Early summer to late fall
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening

Carrot 'Bangor’ F1

Long, stocky roots are produced in large quantities, especially in moist soil, by this excellent maincrop variety. Crops can be harvested from late summer and throughout fall, and store well once lifted.

Sow: Mid-spring to early summer
Harvest: Midsummer to late fall
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Carrot ‘Flyaway’ F1

Specially bred to be less prone to attack by carrot flies, this maincrop carrot produces good crops where the pest would render others inedible. The stout, cylindrical roots are smooth-skinned and sugary.

Sow: Early spring to midsummer
Harvest: Late spring to mid-fall
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Carrot ‘Carson’ F1

Fall and winter bring good cropsof this medium-sized, tapering variety. The rich orange color, combined with the delicious crunchy texture and sweetness, makes them irresistible when eaten raw.

Sow: Mid-spring to midsummer
Harvest: Late summer to early winter
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Beet ‘Boltardy’

A reliable variety yielding traditional deep red globe-shaped roots with a fine sweet flavor. Perfect for sowing under cloches in early spring because of its excellent resistance to bolting.

Sow: Early spring to midsummer
Harvest: Early summer to mid-fall
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Beet ‘Pablo’ F1

One of the best varieties for growing in patio containers and perfect to harvest as baby beets. The smooth, deep red, spherical roots taste exceptionally sweet; they also stand well in the soil without bolting or becoming woody.

Sow: Mid-spring to early summer
Harvest: Midsummer to mid-fall
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Beet ‘Chioggia Pink’

A beautiful curiosity; the rich red skin of this spherical root conceals flesh marked with concentric rings of blush pink and white. Its sweet, mild flavor is delightful raw or cooked.

Sow: Mid-spring to midsummer
Harvest: Early summer to mid-fall
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Beet ‘Forono’

Elongated, burgundy-colored roots make this variety ideal for slicing. Tender young roots have a particularly intense flavor, so sow successionally for a continuous supply. Prone to bolting if sown too early.

Sow: Mid-spring to early summer
Harvest: Midsummer to late fall
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Parsnip ‘Gladiator’ F1

A popular hybrid parsnip that matures quickly, producing consistently reliable, early-maturing crops of white-skinned roots. ‘Gladiator’ also benefits from good canker resistance.

Sow: Late winter to mid-spring
Harvest: Mid-fall to early spring
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Parsnip ‘Tender and True’

In deep soil, this variety forms exceptionally long roots, which are often considered to have one of the finest parsnip flavors. It is also resistant to canker and is a firm favorite with exhibition growers.

Sow: Late winter to mid-spring
Harvest: Late fall to early spring
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Here are some varieties of red carrots to give a try in your garden:

‘Red Samurai’ – This is a Japanese plant introduction. The carrot has red flesh with a pink center making it a favorite among children. With a relatively quick harvest time of 60 days after sowing this variety is great for successive plantings. This variety is said to be sweet and crunchy – even keeping its color when cooked, which is not true of all colored vegetables (i.e. such as purple beans). 

‘Atomic Red’ – As with all red carrots, this variety is high in lycopene giving it the red color that many love and rave about. Lycopene is a proven antioxidant that is full of beneficial qualities to ward off diseases. If you don’t like tomatoes, try eating red carrots instead to get your daily lycopene intake. Mixing this with purple carrots on a crudité platter will make the best conversation starter at any gathering. 

‘Pusa Rudhira Red’ – Gorgeous, new variety coming out of India from a world renowned vegetable plant breeder. This variety has red flesh and the center looks like a work of art creating almost a bulls-eye type pattern with varying shades of red and orange. Many gardeners have stated the flavor is superior to other varieties that they have grown. A great variety to grow - see how your taste buds respond to the flavor. 

‘Kyoto Red’ – This variety is tender, sweet and ideal for juicing. Grown in Kyoto area of Japan this carrot has finally made it over the pond for U.S. gardeners to grow in their own veggie plots. Producing a good yield of carrots that are 12 inches long and harvested at about 90 days this variety is sure to please. Try growing multiple red carrot seeds to see which one you and your family like the best and has the deepest red color. 

‘Sunrise Red’ – A very attractive variety that has red skin and flesh. Sweet and juicy in taste making it ideal for raw uses such as salad and snacking. Roots are 12 to 15 inches in length and can be harvested typically 80 days after planting. 

Red carrots can often be found quite readily in Asian produce markets or stands and are often referred to as ‘Pakistani’ carrots. Middle Eastern cultures have been using red carrots since the 12th century. Often pickled red carrots or red carrot preserves are easy to find. Try something new today either by picking up red carrots or planting them yourself.

Next Up

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When to Plant Carrots

Carrots are sown in the early spring to be harvested in the summer.

Are There Black Carrots?

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Are There Round Carrots?

French, Parisian carrots were the round carrots of our ancestors being introduced in the States around 1861.

Are There Yellow Carrots?

Yellow carrots date back to the 900s and were the original color of carrots along with purple.

Are There Purple Carrots?

Purple carrots have been around since the beginning of time, but we are just starting to appreciate their beauty.

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