Carrots are an interesting vegetable because they come in a wide variety of colors.
The carrots that you see in grocery stores and vegetable stores are virtually always only orange in color.
But, here’s an explanation of whether the orange carrots that are so popular today were originally black in color.
Carrots did not used to be black.
The orange carrots that are very popular today were selectively bred from yellow and purple carrots.
The other colors of carrots are purple, red, and white.
Ancient wild carrots which modern-day carrots are derived from were white/ivory in color.
The history of carrots is fairly well understood, and there are some drawbacks to purple/black carrots which is why orange carrots are the most popular.
In this article, I will explain when orange carrots became so popular, as well as, how and why this happened.
When Did Carrots Stop Being Purple?
Purple carrots are still around today, and many people still grow them.
There are also historic records that show that purple carrots were also popular back when orange carrots started to become more popular.
Here’s when exactly it happened.
Carrots stopped being purple in the 1500’s according to historians.
There are still purple carrot varieties that are grown today.
But, orange carrots became more popular than purple varieties because they don’t discolor pots, cutting boards, and change the color of the water they’re cooked in.
The juice of purple carrots stains most things it comes into contact with.
This is not true of all purple carrots and there are some purple carrots that don’t have this property.
Orange-colored carrot juice also stains clothing and carpet.
However, when you cook with them they don’t stain the pot, cutting board, the pot they’re cooked in or the color of the water.
For these reasons, orange carrots were preferred.
In some cases, orange carrots have a more delicious flavor.
But, this also varies a lot based on the specific variety.
Two main types of domesticated carrots
According to the Carrot Museum, there are two main types of domesticated carrots, those grown in the Middle East and Asian regions, and those grown in English-speaking countries and throughout Europe.
They differ in their color and shape.
The carrots that are grown and the most widely available in English-speaking countries and Europe are the orange cone-shaped carrots that everyone is familiar with.
They are almost always orange, but can also be white and red.
The other main type of domestic carrot is grown in the Middle East and Asia.
They’re different from orange carrots because they’re much shorter and fatter.
The most common are purple or yellow.
These were the carrots that orange carrots are derived from.
Where carrots are native and how do they spread throughout the world?
According to historic records, the carrot is native to the Himalayan region.
These native carrots were purple and yellow in color.
As you may know there is what was called the Silk Road.
This was a major transport route that connected Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
It’s believed that the carrot made its way around this large region via the Silk Road.
Eventually, it ended up in the Netherlands (Holland), in the Northern part of Europe.
In Holland, they developed orange carrot varieties from yellow carrots.
Two carrot varieties that were developed in Holland are of note: the ‘Long Orange’ and ‘Horn’ type, and were first recorded in 1721.
These became an important basis for the modern orange carrot.
However, orange carrots were known to be around in about the 1500s some 200 years before these varieties.
There are different nutrients found in different colored carrots, this explains the flavor differences.
I looked into the nutrients in yellow carrots and compared them side by side with the nutrients found in orange carrots.
I summarized what I found in this article to answer if yellow carrots are better than orange carrots.
The juice of purple carrots also sometimes called black carrots discolors most things it comes in contact with.
Here’s a video that shows how purple carrots make your tongue turn purple:
Why Did Carrots Turn from Purple to Orange?
Purple carrots are still grown today and are somewhat popular in Europe and English-speaking countries.
However, in Asia and the Middle East purple and yellow carrots are the most popular.
So, here’s an explanation of why purple and how purple carrots changed to orange.
Carrots turned from purple to orange because they were selectively bred.
Orange carrots are derived from yellow carrots.
Prior to that yellow and purple carrots were very popular in most of the world.
Orange carrots were seen as superior because they don’t stain cutting boards and pots.
According to historians the popular orange carrots that are found in virtually every vegetable store are derived from yellow carrots.
This is achieved because there is a different genetic variety in carrots.
For example, some yellow carrots would be slightly more orange in color.
When yellow carrots were grown a specific carrot that had unique characteristics – such as being more orangey in color – would have been left to flower and the seeds collected to produce more of them.
And then of the carrots that these seeds grew into the best ones or the more orange ones would have been left to flower again.
Until a better and better carrot was created.
These seeds would then have been shared with other growers.
This is the process by which orange carrots were derived from yellow carrots.
Where do carrot seeds come from and how they’re kept?
Carrots are an interesting plant because they live for 2 years.
Ordinarily, if you don’t harvest a carrot it will use up all the energy in the thick root (the carrot), and use that energy to produce a large flower about the size of your palm
. This will then produce many seeds.
Interestingly, the orange color that carrots have is a result of a naturally occurring chemical called beta-carotene.
If you consume too many carrots and not many other foods the beta-carotene can turn your skin orange.
I explained this in detail, as well as, how many carrots you need to eat for this to happen in this article about whether it’s bad if your skin turns orange from carrots.
It also covers other fruits and vegetables that are the highest in beta-carotene, how the beta-carotene content in them differs from that found in carrots, and how many of them you would need to eat to cause your skin to turn orange.
Why Are Purple Carrots Better Than Orange?
In Asia and the Middle East purple carrots are more popular than orange carrots.
But, in English-speaking countries, and Europe orange carrots are more popular.
Although purple carrots are still grown outside of Asia and the Middle East, here are some reasons why purple carrots are better than orange carrots.
Some varieties of purple carrots are better tasting than orange carrots, are more attractive than orange carrots, and grow larger than orange carrots.
However, every variety of purple carrots is unique and there are stark differences between different varieties of purple carrots.
Interestingly, many varieties of purple carrots have purple skin but are orange on the inside.
The purple color of their skin is more of a maroon-purple.
Whereas, other varieties are very dark purple and almost black.
They’re also dark purple all the way through.
I’m Chris Watson & the Founder of EatForLonger.com. I’m a food and wellbeing enthusiast researching and sharing foodstuffs and simple food-based concepts, such as fasting and clean eating.
I hope it inspires you to make tiny changes to what you eat and when you eat while optimizing your healthspan and all-around well-being.
Read more About Me here.