In my veg box this week, I was delighted to find some purple carrots! This got me thinking about the history of the carrot, as I was sure I'd heard somewhere that carrots used to be purple like this. That's when I discovered this fabulous website called the World Carrot Museum. There's an awful lot of carrot history on there, although my favourite quote from the website is, "The Carrot has a somewhat obscure history, surrounded by doubt and enigma". So, there you go: the humble carrot has something of a shady past. The wonderful thing I learnt from this website is that carrots also come in yellow, white and red varieties.
It seems a shame that now the only carrots we can buy in the shops are orange: surely, children would love these, and according to the Carrot Museum: "Purple carrots (usually orange inside) have even more beta carotene than their orange cousins, and get their pigment from an entirely different class, the anthocyanins, these pigments act as powerful antioxidants, grabbing and holding on to harmful free radicals in the body. Anthocyanins also help prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting and and are good anti inflammatory agents." (http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/nutrition.html)
In 2002 it looks as if Sainsbury's tried to revive the purple carrot, but I doubt if this was successful considering I don't remember ever seeing purple carrots in the supermarkets.There's a little more information about growing purple carrots in the UK back at the carrot museum. Apparently, we just aren't ready for purple vegetables in this country.
I used some of my carrots in a casserole - they lost their colour a bit in the long cooking time, but still tasted good. I used the rest in a duck stir fry, and the colour they added was great. Taste-wise, I don't think there's much, if any, discernable difference to orange carrots, but I do think they look really quite beautiful and there are apparently greater health benefits too.
And there are more purple vegetables to be had out there. I had some wonderful purple beans from a work colleague's allotment earlier this year (although they turn green when you cook them!), and I recently read about red sprouts on Butcher, Baker's blog. I think we should all embrace our purple vegetables a little more!