With their compelling health benefits and a thumbs-up from taste testers, Purple carrots have quickly established themselves as an interesting choice of many home growers. Launched in 2005, they originally caused a great stir at grower's and farmers markets, adding much needed excitement to the meals of many children and adults alike who are fascinated by their wonderful colour.
The roots have a high antioxidant and vitamin content, so are best eaten raw. When sliced into "carrot coins", they really show off their stunning colour scheme in beautiful displays of purple, orange and yellow, they look amazing in salads or as a steamed vegetable.
The purple carrot is a nutritional powerhouse and it's being hailed as one of the most powerful foods on the planet for its mighty health benefits. Modern orange carrots have always been known as an excellent source of vitamin A and phytochemicals, but the ancient purple carrot has double the level of beta-carotene than the orange carrot and contains 28 times more anthocyanins.
'Purple Dragon' is a Danver's type carrot with 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) long, sweet crunchy roots. The roots are smooth and straight, with a sweet flavour and a slight hint of spice, it matures in 70 to 80 days. With a beautiful purple skin, the deep velvety exterior gives way to a starburst of brilliant orange at the core.
Prepare the site:
Success with root vegetables is very much down to the quality of the soil, so it’s worth taking the time to prepare your patch. Start digging over your soil in late winter or early spring, removing any stones you find and turn the soil until it has a fine, crumbly texture. If your soil is not ideally suitable, you can prepare a large container instead. Do not add manure as this makes the soil too rich for the seeds. Too much nitrogen will cause the carrots to grow hairy little roots all up and down the carrot.
Carrots sown in February in a cold frame/cloche are ready to harvest by June. Put the cloche in place a month before sowing as this helps to warm up the soil.
Sowing: Sow from Feb to June under cloches or fleece.
Carrot seeds are small, but it’s wise to plant them as thinly as possible. This reduces the amount of thinning necessary and potential risk from pests. Mix the seeds with a handful of sharp sand and sow the seeds and sand together. Sand will also aid drainage. Once the seedlings are showing their first rough leaves, thin to 5 to 7cm (2 to 3in) between plants.
Use a lightweight fleece over the bed to increase the temperature of the soil while also preventing the carrot flies from laying their eggs. The plants need little other attention during their growth period, although the plants should be kept well watered – too little water results in coarse, woody roots.
Harvesting: Matures in 70 to 80 days.
Start pulling up your carrots as soon as they are big enough to eat. It’s best to harvest them in the evening to avoid attracting carrot fly. Late-sown carrots must be lifted by October to be stored over the winter.
Store only the best, undamaged roots, cut off their foliage and lay the roots between layers of sand in a strong box, ensuring that the roots do not touch. Store somewhere cool and dry, check the carrots occasionally, removing any odd rotten roots before they infect their neighbours. Carrot tops can be used in a variety of dishes, including raw in drinks or in salads.
Carrots are an excellent source of the deep yellow carotenoids that produce vitamin A. They are also a good source of magnesium, potassium, vitamins C and B complex, and a form of calcium that is easily absorbed by the body.
During the first five months of storage, carrots will actually increase their vitamin A content; and, if protected from heat or light, can hold their nutrient content for another two or three months
Carrot fly is drawn to carrots by the smell of crushed foliage, reduce the risk of an attack by thinning plants in the evening on a still day, removing any thinnings and watering afterwards. Carrot fly are also low-flying insects: erecting a ‘wind-break’ style shield around a crop will also help deter these pests.
Carrots do well alongside most plants, especially Chives, Garlic, Rosemary and Sage (which deter Carrot Fly).
However Dill, Coriander and other members of the Umbelliferae family should not be planted near carrots as they tend to cross pollinate which can be important if you are to save your own seed.
Carrots originated in what is now Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan and by about 1000 A.D., they were being grown from India to the Eastern Mediterranean. By the 1300s, purple and yellow carrots had spread as far as western Europe and China. Red carrots originated in India, China, and Japan in the 1700s. White and orange carrots first appeared in Europe during the 1700s.
Due to the influence of patriotic Dutch growers who, in the sixteenth century bred the carrot orange to honour their national colours, orange carrots quickly displaced all other colours and dominate the world to this day. Modern agribusiness narrowed our choices even further.
Plant pigments perform a range of protective duties in the human body, which is not surprising, since many of the pigments serve to shield plant cells during photosynthesis. Generally speaking the more colour in the carrot the higher the content of beta-carotene and vitamins.
Red carrots derive their colour mainly from lycopene, a type of carotene believed to guard against heart disease and some cancers.
Yellow carrots accumulate xanthophylls, pigments similar to beta-carotene that support good eye health.
Purple carrots possess an entirely different class of pigments—anthocyanins—which act as powerful antioxidants.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 925 Seeds Common Name Maincrop Other Common Names Aka 'Purple Haze' Family Apiaceae Genus Daucus Species Carota ssp. sativus Cultivar Purple Dragon Hardiness Hardy Biennial Spacing Thin the seedlings to 5 to 7cm (2 to 3in) between plants. Time to Sow Sow successionally from Feb under cloches or fleece Germination 15 to 20 days Harvest Start pulling up your carrots as soon as they are big enough to eat Time to Harvest Matures in 70 to 80 days