When you think of carrots, you most likely picture a bright orange carrot found in a salad, beef roast or crunchy snack. However, carrots come in a multitude of colors, including purple! In fact, it’s believed that the first domesticated carrots weren’t orange at all – they were purple and white.
So why should you try growing or eating purple carrots? Purple vegetables have antioxidants called anthocyanins, which delay cellular aging and help prevent the formation of blood clots. Anthocyanins also help with muscle recovery after intense exercise. Furthermore, they can inhibit the development and progression of some types of cancers.
Carrots are a cool-season crop that grow best in loose, deep, well-draining soils. They should be planted in rows 12 to 18 inches apart with six to 12 carrots per foot. Carrots can be slow to germinate, sometimes taking one to three weeks. During the germination period, it’s important to keep the soil from crusting and compacting by avoiding foot traffic through the area and planting in loose soil.
Coated or pelletized carrot seeds germinate faster and are easier to sow than raw seeds. Once germinated, you may want to thin seedlings up to 2 inches apart depending on how large you want your carrots to be. Uniform soil moisture is important throughout the growing season. Begin harvesting carrots when the roots are at least ½ inch in diameter. For a continuous supply of carrots, stagger seedings three to four weeks apart.
If you want to add a new color to your carrot crop, consider varieties such as Deep Purple, Purple Haze or Purple Sun. Deep Purple and Purple Sun are very dark to the core, while Purple Haze carrots have an orange interior. Not only can you add more color to your garden by planting purple carrots, but you also can add a new color to your dinner plate or snack tray!
Jennifer Friend, WVU Extension Agent – Harrison County