Growing Colourful Carrots

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Carrots of many colours

The humble carrot is rarely described as eye catching. True, it has its glowing orange roots but that's where the colour show stops, right? Wrong! Carrots are in fact immensely colourful, with plenty of varieties in alternative hues including white, yellow, red and purple. Served up together, perhaps grated into a salad, carrots can add a dazzling rainbow of tones that will please the eye as much as the tummy.

Curiously, orange carrots are a relatively recent phenomenon, apparently bred by loyal subjects of the Dutch House of Orange in the 16th or 17th century. Yet the orange roots that are now so familiar also happen to be juicier and fuller flavoured than wild carrots, suggesting that breeding efforts may have had more to do with improving the once skinny taproot's kitchen worthiness than sucking up to the latest monarch!

However the orange carrot came about, it is now so much of a staple that picturing roots in any other colour takes a leap of the imagination. Just feast your eyes on the accompanying photos and you'll appreciate there is indeed a rainbow of roots to be grown.

Colourful carrots

Rainbow Roots

Different colours of carrot originate from different parts of the world. Each colour has its own history and particular health benefits for us as root-snaffling connoisseurs. Purple carrots, for example, hail from the Middle East and Turkey and are rich in anthocyanins which are known to guard against heart disease. Red carrots originate from China and India. Chock full of lycopene, these roots can reduce the risk of macular degeneration, so while they may not help you see in the dark they're certainly good news for eye health.

Carrots that are yellow originate from the Middle East and are just as good for the eyes. They contain lutene and xanthophylls that minimise the risk of hardening of the arteries while potentially preventing lung and other cancers. The take-home message of all this is that coloured carrots are intensely good for you and by growing a mixture of varieties you'll be increasing the odds of keeping yourself in exceptionally fine fettle.

Sowing and Growing Colourful Carrots

Wild carrots have long taproots designed to seek out moisture far underground. This makes sense given the often dry parts of the world it's found in. It is for this reason that carrots prefer to be sown into warm soil, making them ideal for sowing in succession every few weeks from spring well into summer. Carrots prefer light soil and a warm, sunny position. Avoid stony ground which will cause the roots to fork or take on all manner of weird and wonderful shapes.

Carrot seedlings

Sow seeds into well-prepared soil that has been raked to a fine, crumbly texture. Thinly scatter the seeds into rows 20-30cm (8-12in) apart, setting them 2cm (1in) deep. Carrots also make excellent container crops where pests such as carrot fly won't get the chance to interfere.

Once the seedlings pop up remove weaker specimens by nipping them off between finger and thumb at ground level or by pulling them out on a still day (to avoid the smell attracting carrot fly). Thinning can be completed in stages until individual plants are at least 5cm (2in) apart. Keep plants watered as they establish.

Varieties to Try

It is worth digging around, so to speak, for the varieties of colourful carrots available in your region. Just like tomatoes there are literally hundreds of different shades and shapes to try if you're devoted enough to look for them.

My hands-down favourite is the shockingly deep-coloured 'Purple Haze' whose purple outer reveals a rich, orange core when cut open. Eat it raw to appreciate the immense flavour these chunky roots have to offer. Contrast 'Purple Haze' with the almost glow-in-the-dark 'Yellowstone', whose smooth-skinned roots are exceptionally sweet. Scarlet 'Red Samurai' from Japan hides a deep pink flesh, while 'White Satin' is a good option for its ghost-like roots. If you can't find any of these varieties look out for others such as 'Purple Dragon', 'Solar Yellow', 'Belgium White' and 'Atomic Red' – the clue to the root colour lies in the name!

Red carrots'

If you haven't got the space or time to sow several different varieties separately, try one of the carrot mixes which give a range of skin and flesh colours. Mixes include 'Rainbow', 'Cosmic Colour' and 'Harlequin'. Most mixes tend to lack the really deep colours, so you may want to add a purple variety into the mix for good measure.

Colourful carrots are great fun to grow and it's always a treat to watch the faces of the uninitiated squint with surprise when they see them for the first time. I'd be interested to find out what your favourite coloured carrot varieties are. Share them in the comments section below and let's start a colourful conversation.

By Benedict Vanheems.

Photos courtesy of: Suttons Seeds, Thompson & Morgan

Plants Related to this Article

Bugs, Beneficial Insects and Plant Diseases

< All Guides

Garden Planning Apps

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our Vegetable Garden Planner.
Garden Planning Apps and Software

Vegetable Garden Pest Warnings

Want to Receive Alerts When Pests are Heading Your Way?

If you've seen any pests or beneficial insects in your garden in the past few days please report them to The Big Bug Hunt and help create a warning system to alert you when bugs are heading your way.

Show Comments


"I love rainbow carrots. Orange is my least favorite actually, and I've always found them to be TOO sweet. I invented a recipe that I love though that even orange carrots are tasty to me in, but the white, yellow, and deep purple or black ones are the best. Have grown many types, some more successfully than others, and plan to again this year since only one store near here carries them and it's half hour away. I'll share my recipe here for those that prefer savory root veggies over sweet ones (I like sweet potatoes both ways) Sauteed carrots: Large enameled or nonstick deepfry pan(3-4" sides, big bottom, with a lid) A good amount of Butter, country crock, coconut oil, olive oil- whatever your favorite fat is. I prefer the butter ones for flavor but for health/diet I use the oils instead and add a sea salt I found to have a butter flavor(on corn on the cob I can forego bitter altogether using it) and that's red alea sea salt from the sanfranciso salt co. It's an orangeish color and is infused with clay but tastes buttery. I usually cook 1.5-2lbs of carrots at a time which will easily feed 6, and use a good half cup of more of my fat Salt- if using oil, I use the orange clay salt and my black Hawaiian(activated charcoal) salt, if using butter/ margarine I'll just use the black. Salt generously but not overly. When carrots start to soften you can tastetests and add, but can't remove it. Mixed peopercorns- the kind with allspice and careaway or cardomon in it, I forget. Discovered this mix in a small grinder from McCormick called pepper or medley, but have since recreated my own as it doesn't come in larger containers. Be generous with this, the nonpeppercorns add a great flavor and keep the pepper from being overwhelming. Key ingredient: Pizza seasoning. It's similar to Italian seasoning bit much more flavorful, and the right balance of this, the salt and pepper corns is what truly makes this dish. Chop carrots, or dump in bags if using baby carrots into pan with preheated on low-medium with oil/butter. Put the lid on and toss a bit to coat, then add your first layer of the seasonings. Much will rinse off into the oil so don't worry too much, be generous for flavor. After cooking(I use a 3 setting on gas burner unless I'm going to have a cigarette, then use minimum) for a bit, shaking pan every 3-5 minutes, add another layer of seasoning. At this point you should have some bleeding of colors if rainbow carrots, and you're still a good 10 minutes from tender. Keep going like this, but limit to 2 seasoning layers until you can taste test, until half the carrots will cut with a rubber coated spoon(since using nonstick pan.) At this point you can tastest one of the tender carrots and add more seasoning if needed. Once all the carrots are spoon tender, you want to give the pan another good shake/stir and cook for at least 5 more minutes on low,bpreferavly til the very bottom layer starts to get a golden brown hue. At this point your carrots are ready to eat. Overcooking , aside from burning, isn't really an issue here, but if you stop the cooking process too early, i.e. as soon as carrots are all tender, the flavor won't have begun to seep into the centers. "
SirXena on Monday 13 April 2020
"You've whetted my appetite SirXena! Thanks very much for sharing this recipe. I'm going to have to try this out!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 13 April 2020

Add a Comment

Add your own thoughts on the subject of this article:
(If you have difficulty using this form, please use our Contact Form to send us your comment, along with the title of this article.)

(We won't display this on the website or use it for marketing)


(Please enter the code above to help prevent spam on this article)

By clicking 'Add Comment' you agree to our Terms and Conditions