Red, yellow, green and purple - are rainbow carrots the way of the future? Perhaps, but they could more accurately be called the carrots of the past because they have a long history. Purple and yellow carrots were grown as many as 1,000 years ago in Asia and Western Europe, although selective breeding programs to produce such colors for commercial purposes are fairly recent. Carrots are now regularly bred in purple, red, yellow and white, in addition to orange, and scientists say that there is added nutritional benefit to choosing a colorful vegetable over a more conventional one.
Red carrots have extra lycopene, which is also found in tomatoes and is believed to lower blood pressure and help to reduce the risk of some cancers. Yellow carrots promote eye health with beta-carotene-like pigments, and purple carrots have powerful antioxidants.
Even with health benefits to recommend them, the carrots are not an easy sell. This is in part because neither consumers nor producers are really sure what to look for as a sign of a good purple carrot, whereas most people look for a good color and relatively smooth skin for an orange one. The bigger issue is that consumers don't know what they're going to taste like and are reluctant to branch out. But the carrots taste pretty much the same, regardless of their color, and some taste even sweeter than a standard carrot.
Some Trader Joe's locations started carrying the rainbow carrots this week, and they're worth a try if you see them there or at your local grocery store.