When rummaging through a bowl of candy or picking out a bottle of wine, the color of what we select is a major factor in our decision-making process. We’ve been programmed to believe that the color of a piece of food will dictate its flavor, and in those cases we’re not wrong.
But is that really the case when it comes to colorful vegetables such as carrots?
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Before I answer that question, I’ll address another that may have just sprung up: Yes, carrots are a more colorful vegetable than you might realize. You may associate carrots with the orange variety you see in the supermarket, but in reality, this is only one of the types (or cultivars) of carrots available around the world.
Wild carrots were a variety of bright and bold colors before they were domesticated for food crops. The vegetable originated in ancient Persia, where they were almost uniformly deep purple in color. When carrots were first cultivated in 900AD Afghanistan, white cultivars began to spring up as well. Since then, cultivars ranging from red to yellow started to appear, and in the seventeenth century, the orange variety that we know and love today began to develop in the Netherlands. It has since become the most predominant variety across Europe and the West.
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Which brings us to our original question. Does this spectrum of cultivars affect the flavor and texture of carrots? Our book Vegetables Illustrated has the answer—yes, but it’s subtle. White carrots, for example, are crisp and sweet, with an “apple-like texture.” Purple carrots, on the other hand, have a more peppery flavor and woody texture. Orange carrots came into favor thanks to their sweetness and size, and they contain the most moisture of the cultivars.
When shopping for your favorite variety of carrots, be sure not to buy ones that are too large; though their impressive size may catch your eye, this is often a sign that they are less juicy and have tougher, less-flavorful cores.
No matter what kind of carrot you prefer, you can mix and match in your recipes to discover the differences in taste and texture for yourself, and maybe even come away with a new favorite.