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Carrots are not only orange

The Issue

Contrary to the popular belief that carrots are only orange, the common root vegetable is available in a wide variety of colors -- from white to red to almost black. The unusually pigmented carrots have flavors that can accommodate many tastes. Flavor and visual variety may entice consumers to purchase and eat more carrots. A rainbow of carrot colors could attract customers to a roadside stand or farmers market booth, increasing traffic. In addition, colorful carrots might provide a nutrition boost for health-conscious consumers. For instance, according to the USDA, yellow carrots contain xanthophylls, a substance that supports vision and lowers lung cancer risks. Red carrots contain lycopene, which helps prevent heart disease and some cancers, including prostate cancer. Purple carrots contain anthocyanins, pigments that act as powerful antioxidants to neutralize harmful free radicals. Anthocyanins also regulate blood clotting, a helpful factor in preventing heart disease. White carrots lack pigment, but may contain other health-promoting phytochemicals.

What Has ANR Done?

UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Aziz Baameur and nutrition advisor Maria Giovanni initiated a study to evaluate several carrot accessions for their suitability to Central Coast farming conditions and for their sensory properties. The carrots were grown at the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agriculture and Sustainable Farming Systems, in cooperation with Jim Leap, the center manager, and Balyn Rose, a student at UCSC. Field evaluation focused on yield criteria such as weight, carrot size and dimensions.

Tasting panels evaluated potential consumer reactions to shape, internal and external color, flavor, sweetness, presence of off-flavors and overall acceptability.

The Payoff

Helping growers diversify their offerings

By testing and selecting the best colored carrots, UCCE absorbed a significant amount of risk that faces farmers when they are considering a new crop. The information about the carrots' performance under local conditions helps growers select the most promising varieties to plant for market. The varieties of colored carrots showed great potential for consumer appeal on the basis of esthetic, nutrition and flavor. The volunteer taste panel enthusiastically responded to several of the carrots and indicated that they would buy them if they were offered at their local market today.


Supporting Unit: Santa Clara County

Aziz Baameur, (408) 282-3127, azbaameur@ucdavis.edu, UCCE Santa Clara County.

Maria Giovanni, (408) 282-3104, megiovanni@ucdavis.edu, UCCE Santa Clara County.