The World of Colorful Carrots

Colorful carrots can be the star of your table with these helpful tips for growing, harvesting, and saving these delightful root vegetables.

  • Red carrots, like ‘Atomic Red,’ may have appeared first in India and China. They get their color from lycopene. Lycopene is believed to protect against heart disease and cancer, especially prostate cancer. It also helps maintain healthy skin.
    Photo courtesy
  • "Carrots may not be glamorous, yet they are truly one of the delights of the home vegetable garden."
    Photo courtesy
  • ‘Cosmic Purple’ has become a standard at farmer's markets, where its deep color and tendency to make nice straight roots endears it to locavores and growers alike.
    Photo courtest
  • ‘Oxheart’ carrot is the ultimate in the blunt carrots, which are recommended where soils are too tight or coarse to grow longer-rooted varieties. Their size and shape make them resemble a turnip, but they're all carrot — crisp, juicy and sweet.
    Photo courtesy
  • White carrots are considered to be one of the ancestral types, originating in Afghanistan and surrounding areas. they lack pigmentation and the phytonutrients associated with it, but they are still rich in fiber. And well-grown white carrots, like ‘Lunar White,’ are also very mild-tasting and sweet.
    Photo courtesy

Carrots may not be glamorous, yet they are truly one of the delights of the home vegetable garden.

They come in a stunning variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Freshly harvested, they are so much sweeter, crisper and juicier than their grocery store counterparts. Some gardeners find them fussy to grow, with their primary requirement of very deeply-worked, rich soil, but they’re worthwhile and, once you get the knack, no more difficult than other crops.

Carrots originated in western Asia, which is still the center of diversity for the wild form. The original color was mainly white, red or purple. Orange carrots, in fact, are a relatively recent development. They were originally a product of Dutch breeding and are believed to have existed no earlier than the 1600s.

Carrots were originally appreciated more for their aromatic foliage, which resembles parsley, than for their roots. Over centuries of selection, however, the roots became milder and less woody — in a word, more palatable. It is believed that the crop was grown in ancient Egypt, and certainly later, by the Greeks and Romans. The earliest mention of them occurs in a work by Theophrastus, who, in the third century B.C., indicated that the best carrots were produced around Sparta. They are also mentioned by the elder Pliny. But the record is less certain than with other crops, because carrots were often confused with their close relative, parsnips — it’s difficult to know which vegetable is actually being discussed in ancient texts. The plant, and especially its seeds, were highly valued in ancient herbal medicine. Among other virtues, it was believed that the seeds had the ability to neutralize poisons.


To grow great carrots you need to start with your soil. Carrots are sweeter and milder when grown in a neutral soil pH, so start with a soil test and add lime if necessary. The ideal soil pH should be around 6.5, or a bit higher. Once you’ve got that right, turn your attention to soil nutrients. Your soil test will offer specific recommendations, but the bottom line is this: carrots need a good, rich, mellow garden soil, well-worked, with plenty of organic matter. It also goes without saying that they need excellent drainage and full sun.

Become a Preferred Subscriber and start enjoying the benefits today!

Fall in love with the flavor, versatility, and beauty of Mother Earth Gardener

Mother Earth GardenerDelight your taste buds, mind and eyes with beautiful photos and inspirational techniques on everything you need to know to grow, preserve and cook your own heirloom fruits and vegetables. You won’t want to miss the stories about plants passed down from generation to generation.

Don’t miss a single issue of Mother Earth Gardener. Published by the editors of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Mother Earth Gardener provides decades of organic gardening experience from the most trusted voices in the field. Join today and save off the newsstand price! Get one year (4 issues) for only $24.95! (USA only)

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube