People who are accustomed to grocery store produce might be surprised when they visit farmer’s markets and see heirloom varieties. Why are there black and purple tomatoes? And why are some carrots yellow? Is there something wrong with them?
Far from it! These carrots are some of the tastiest varieties out there. In fact, if you tasted several different carrots while blindfolded, chances are you might enjoy the yellow ones the most. While other carrot varieties have deeper, earthier flavors, yellow and white carrots have a very “clean” taste. They’re super sweet, crunchy, and incredibly juicy. In fact, if you’re a fan of carrot juice, they’re some of the best for combining with other tasty, complimentary flavors.
Further Reading: Which Carrots are Best for Juicing?
Why are Some Carrots Yellow? Aren’t they Supposed to be Orange?
Carrots come in a variety of different hues, depending on which pigments they contain. The orange carrots we’re all familiar with have high concentrations of beta carotene. This pigment is also present in orange-colored fruits and vegetables like orange peppers, papayas, mangoes, and sweet potatoes.
In contrast, yellow carrots have high levels of lutein and xanthophylls. These, like beta carotene, are antioxidants that help improve eye health. Xanthophyll in particular has apparently been shown to reduce one’s risk of getting eye cataracts! Lutein is also beneficial for keeping arteries healthy and supple, and may help to fight lung cancer.
Interestingly, it turns out that we absorb lutein from foods better than we do from supplements. This adds credence to the idea that it’s a great idea to “eat the rainbow” on a daily basis!
These pigmented antioxidants (lutein in particular) are what give yellow carrots their bright, sunny hue. You’ll also find lutein in spinach, yellow peppers, green grapes, broccoli, corn, and peas.
Have People Been Eating Yellow Carrots for a While? Or are They New?
All carrots are believed to have originated in the Middle East. Yellow carrots in particular probably first showed up in Afghanistan sometime in the 9th century. They were then introduced to Turkey, and then spread out around the Mediterranean and other areas across Europe.
Carrots made their way to England sometime between the 11th and 15th centuries, where they quickly became staples in just about everyone’s gardens. These tasty roots were enjoyed by monks and nuns as well as kings and queens, and some of the earliest surviving cookbooks have carrot recipes in them.
Check out this recipe from 950 CE. It’s from a book entitled “Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens“, by Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq. He was an author from 10th century Baghdad, and this book contains some 600 Medieval Middle Eastern recipes! The name of this dish is Khabis al-jazar (carrot pudding).
Choose fresh tender and sweet carrots. Peel them and thinly slice them crosswise. For each pound of honey use 3 pounds of these carrots. Boil the honey* and remove its froth. Pound the carrot in a stone mortar. Set a clean copper cauldron with a rounded bottom on a trivet on the fire, and put in it the skimmed honey and carrots. Cook the mixture on medium fire until the carrots fall apart.
Add walnut oil to the pot. For each pound of homey used add 2/3 cup of oil. Pistachio oil will be the best for it, but you can also use fresh oil of almond or sesame. Add the oil before the honey starts to thicken. However you do not need to stir the pot. You only scrape the bottom gently when mixture starts to thicken to prevent it from sticking to it. To check for doneness, use a stick or a spoon to see whether the pudding is thick enough or not yet.
When pudding becomes thick, put the pot down, and spread the dessert on a copper platter. Set it aside to cool down before serving. It will be firm and delicious.
*For a vegan version, use agave or maple syrup instead
What are Other Benefits of Yellow Carrots?
In addition to their numerous health benefits, yellow carrots have some great attributes that make them ideal for gardeners and chefs. For example, unlike orange and red cultivars, yellow carrots are significantly more resistant to pests, diseases, heat, and drought. Other carrots often bolt in hot temperatures, but yellow ones are ideal for hot, dry climates: they won’t bolt or get woody like the others do.
Related Post: Why are Some Carrots White?
In the kitchen, yellow carrots are ideal for roasts, curries, and just about any other dish. They have a traditional carrot-like flavor, but unlike varieties with deeper orange, red, or purple tones, they don’t “bleed”. This means that they don’t leak colored juices when cooked, so they don’t discolor other ingredients they’re mixed with. There are few things as unnerving as being served red- or orange-streaked risotto, honestly.
When people ask “why are some carrots yellow?”, they might as well ask why some flowers are pink, or why people have such a wide variety of skin tones. Nature is magnificent in its colorful variety, and each living being is beautiful in its own way. When it comes to carrots, these sweet, crunchy yellow gems are absolute treasures, so be sure to grow some in your spring or autumn garden this year!