Carrots have been a useful food staple as early as the 900s when yellow carrots were first noted in Turkey. Carrots grow wild all over the Mediterranean and historian-foodies believe that they may have originated somewhere around Afghanistan. Although those carrots came in colors of red, white, and purple, it was the Dutch in the 1600s who brought us the traditional orange carrots of today.
Heirloom Carrot Varieties
- Cosmic Purple – This variety was recorded sometime in the tenth century in Asia Minor. While 7″ Cosmic Purple’s skin is indeed purple, its flesh is orange and yellow. The surprising flesh color isn’t Cosmic Purple’s only surprise. Turns out while it’s sweet, it has a little bite, too. Spicier than most carrots, it also brings great color to the salad bowl or stir-fry recipes.
- Dragon – Dragon is carrot royalty, the creme de la creme of all purple carrots. When you bite into it, you’ll be surprised to find a yellow-orange flesh. The other pleasant surprise is the little bit of spice inside this predominately sweet carrot.
- Early Scarlet Horn – This short carrot has been hanging around since before 1610 and is said to be the oldest cultivated carrot variety. That’s reason enough to grow Early Scarlet Horn, but it also has an excellent flavor.
- Jaune Obtuse Du Doubs – France has records of this carrot variety as far back as 1894. Originally, it was grown to feed livestock. Its roots are thick, extremely sweet, and a bright lemon-yellow color that so far hasn’t been duplicated in other modern carrots. Chefs are falling in love with it.
- Long Red Surrey – These carrots have roots as long as 12″ and are drought-tolerant. Their orange flesh and yellow core make a delicious snack.
- Parisian Rondo – A very popular variety in France, Parisian Rondo is a small, round carrot. It’s orange-red and has a very tender and sweet flavor.
- Paris Market – If you’re a chef, pay attention to this one; gourmet restaurants are always on the lookout for Paris Market carrots. These uniform, red-orange carrots are early harvesters. They’re perfect for container growing and perform well in shallow and rocky soil.
- Red Samurai – Although Red Samuri is good in salads, it really comes alive as a cooked carrot. It is bold red and slender with 10″ roots. Its crisp flesh is sweet and it keeps its true color when steamed.
- Snow White – A white carrot variety that’s as attractive as it is delicious. Snow White is mild and sweet with a good crunch. Its roots are tasty whether eaten raw or cooked.
- St. Valery – St. Valery is a rare French heirloom that was introduced in 1885, though the French claim it has been around for a lot longer. This is a pretty, dark orange carrot. It’s productive, tender, sweet, and good for storing.
- Tonda Di Parigi – An excellent round carrot from nineteenth-century Paris, these beauties have deep orange roots and are exceptionally sweet. Popular marketing carrot.
- Belgian White (Lunar White, Blanche a Collet Vert) – This is an old variety that was introduced in 1839. It has quite heavy white roots with green shoulders. It’s a good variety for people who don’t tolerate carotene. Historically, White Belgian was grown in farm fields across Europe as a feed for horses and cattle as well as for the kitchen.
- Scarlet Nantes (Early Coreless, Nantes Half Long) -Introduced in 1870, gardeners compare the flavor of 7″ Scarlet Nantes to a baby carrot. This bright-orange, almost coreless variety is well-known for its sweet flavor, but it also stores well.