Are There Black Carrots?

The first carrots to be recorded historically into cultivation were purple carrots. Improvements in time have led to purple carrots that look very black in color.

colorful in different colors, copy space

colorful in different colors, copy space

colorful in different colors on wooden cutting board, copy space, top view, vertical

Photo by: Guzin Taskiran

Guzin Taskiran

Some may think that purple carrots almost look like black carrots become the anthocyanins is higher in these varieties than others, but it is typically just a very dark pigment of purple.

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 throught 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.

Purple carrots are very natural, however, the initial colors of carrots is starting to become more apparent to multiple gardeners and common consumers. Although in the United States carrots are typically orange in other regions in the world they differ in color. Those gorgeous differences are starting to be seen and celebrated among the gardening and food communities growing the demand for such colorful snacks.

Here are some varieties of dark purple carrots that almost look black to some gardeners:

‘Black Knight’ – The exterior of this carrot is a very dark purple and the center is a white. It has a firm texture and a mild flavor. It can be somewhat difficult to find seeds, but there are some sources online. The carrots mature in 85 days and typically are about 6 to 8 inches in length. 

‘Pusa Asita Black’ – Coming from incredible breeding work done in India. This almost black carrot is delicious roasted with other root vegetables. The dark purple color is naturally occurring pigment in carrots called anthocyanins. Grows extremely well in rocky soil and well suited for southern gardens. Recommended to let some carrots go to flower to collect seeds and share with other gardeners for planting the next year. 

‘Purple Sun’ – This variety is most unique because its striking, strong purple pigmentation is from the skin to the core. Most varieties are typically either white or orange in the center, but this variety remains purple. In 90 days, you will be marveling at the beauty of this carrot and sharing it with your gardening friends. Purple carrots are full of Anthocyanins, which have amazing health benefits making not only fun to eat, but great for your body as well. 

‘Spanish Black’ - A gorgeous, heirloom variety that has purple outer flesh with the interior being white. This old world classic is becoming endangered in parts of Europe and highly recommended to plant both for harvest of roots and flowers. All carrots are biennial and this variety does take two years to produce seeds; important to keep in mind while growing.  

Try finding Kanji and Salgam which are both popular drinks made from black carrots and can be found in Turkish grocery stores. Gajar Kanji is also a popular, fermented drink from India. Or now that you will be growing your own black carrots, juice them and make a black carrot drink of your own!

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