Kaleidoscope of Carrots 

By Adam Calder, Wheatsfield Produce Manager

Perhaps you are already familiar with multi-colored carrots, since we already do sell baby rainbow carrots in the produce department.  Carrots of many colors are also available at Iowa farmers markets.  The vast majority of carrots grown today are orange, but it hasn’t always been this way.

Pollen evidence shows that carrots have been cultivated since ancient Egyptian times 5,000 years ago.  These carrots were likely white, or a purple so dark it looked black.  Images from the remains of temples show Egyptians cultivating and consuming purple plants, which archeologists think are carrots.

According to legend, although not verifiably true, orange carrots arose to popularity in the late 17th century to honor William the Orange, who was a leader of the Dutch independence resistance from Spanish control.

Scholars are not even sure the orange carrot existed before the 17th century.  The first written account of an orange carrot is the Long Orange Dutch from 1721, from which the residents of Hoorn, Netherlands, developed the Horn Carrot.  Modern orange carrots can trace their lineage to these two carrots.  Whether or not the orange carrot came into being because of Dutch politics, the Dutch actually have made use of the orange carrot as a political tool over the years, with both pro and anti-patriotic messaging.

More likely, orange carrots were bred from already existing purple, yellow, and white carrots in an attempt to increase the sweet taste, and to minimize the bitterness.  There are three carrot genes responsible for the orange color, and all three must be recessive in order for the carrot to be orange.

Wheatsfield sells colorful carrots year-round, and for the spring season we also have carrot seeds packets for your home garden.  This year we are excited to share two new varieties from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah: Solar Yellow and Lunar White carrots!

The Solar Yellow carrots grow to around 7 inches in length.  They are very similar in flavor to orange carrots, with a crunchy bite and sweet flavor.  The juice from these carrots looks like a glass of sunshine on a summer day, and they make a colorful addition to any dish calling for carrots.

The Lunar White carrots can grow up to 12 inches in length, and are also crunchy, though not as sweet as orange or yellow ones.  The flavor of these carrots is brought out by cooking, although they can also be eaten fresh just like their brightly colored cousins.

We also have seeds for purple Dragon carrots, Red Cored Chantenay carrots, orange St. Valerie and Scarlet Nantes carrots.  This kaleidoscope of carrot color would look incredible in anyone’s garden, or on their dinner table.