What Color Is Your Carrot?


Purple carrots? But do they taste any different?

August is the month that heirloom varieties and modern hybrids cavort in the farmers’ markets around town. Heirlooms are persnickety, and take longer to grow, and, as for the hybrids, canny farmers know that customers are tired of the same old vegetables by the end of the summer, and ready to buy something different — and, often, pay extra for it.

White carrots are perhaps the most alarming.

Well, the terrible truth about colorful carrots is that they don’t vary all that much in taste, and all are said by tradition to improve your eyesight. Here are a few notes on the four varieties that Fork in the Road spotted on a recent visit to the Union Square Greenmarket.

The real virtue of these root vegetables is the thrill of using them in contexts where an orange vegetable is expected. But use them raw in slaws and salads — the color fades when they’re cooked.

Purple Carrots — The wacky color of the purple carrot — a modern hybrid — comes from anthocyanin, a purple chemical said to have antioxidant properties. Which is a crock of crap, but the carrots are really beautiful. Used in a slaw with purple kohlrabi, you’ve got yourself a dish worthy of a Boulud or Vongerichten.

White Satin Carrots — This is a variety lacking in the tradition chemical carotene that makes carrots orange. A pigment-less variety, it originated in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.

Yellow Carrots — These roots are colored with xanthophyll and lutene, rather than beta-carotene, and originated in the Middle East. For lovers of subtlety. They’re said to have anti-cancer properties.

Orange Carrots — And don’t forget the gold standard of carrots, regular orange carrots. Mix them with the other four, and have an amazing coleslaw. Cook them and they stay orange.

Yellow carrots

Good old orange carrots

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