Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Today: Carrots of a different color, plus how to use them, where to find them -- and how to store them once you do.

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Carrots are an underrated bunch. In all likelihood, there's a mostly full package of them languishing in the crisper drawer of your fridge right now. We get it: you bought a bagful for a mirepoix and then neglected the rest, so they were left to wither away.

That wouldn’t have happened if they were purple. 

Purple carrots not only add a splash of color to your plate, they also provide a healthy dose of anthocyanins, color pigments that boast powerful antioxidant compounds (like you find in blueberries). Carrots, even vibrantly colored ones, won’t really help you see in the dark, but we bet you'll get starry-eyed over varieties like cosmic purple and purple sun. Purple sun carrots are deep purple from skin to core; cosmic purple carrots have purple skin too, but have an intense orange or yellow core visible when you cut into them. 

What to Do With a Purple Carrot
To maximize their striking hues, enjoy them raw. If you take a cue from Amanda’s kids’ lunch, they’ll be the star of your crudité platter -- or let them shine in a salad. Try juicing the purple suns (perhaps adding the juice to a cocktail?) or roasting the cosmic purples. Be warned: boiling varieties like the cosmic purple will reduce their purple exterior, and putting purple sun carrots in a soup or a cake could produce a dish in an unappetizing shade of grey.

Carrots are members of the parsley family (it’s a large family, but other well-known siblings include celery, coriander, dill, and parsnips), so it’s no surprise that carrot tops have a fresh, earthy, and mildly bitter flavor. Yes, there is some debate over whether or not they are edible, but food science writer Harold McGee says they are okay. (And that's enough for us.) If you’re willing to risk it, there’s no need to relegate the lush bushy greens to the stock pot. Try them in pesto or gremolata, as a garnish, or as the main component of an Asian-inspired salad.

Where to Get Them 
If you're inspired by color, keep your eye out for other celestial beauties like lunar white, atomic red, and solar yellow carrots (or pick up a pack of seeds and grow your own!). Colorful carrots can sometimes be found in stores, but your best bet will be to visit a nearby farmers market and start asking farmers what varieties they grow.

What to Look For
For the tastiest carrots, choose firm, richly colored ones with their green leafy tops still attached. Pass on any carrot that’s dully colored, limp, or rubbery. You’ll also want to avoid carrots with sad, wilty leaves or green shoulders (the top part of the carrot that sticks out of the ground when it’s growing), as the latter could be a sign that the carrot got a “sunburn,” and the flavor could be affected. (However, there are heirloom varieties of carrots with green shoulders, so when in doubt, talk to your farmer.)

How to Store and Prep Them
Your vibrant beauties will probably be consumed quickly, but just like other carrots, they store well in the refrigerator. You'll want to store the roots and the greens separately, so the greens don’t steal the moisture from the root. Cut the tops off of the carrots, and store them as you would any other green. The root part of your carrots can easily last for weeks kept in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer, but make sure to wait to wash the carrots until you’re going to use them, as excess moisture in the bag can make them spoil faster.

Fresh young carrots aren’t likely to have bitter skin, so leave the peeler in the drawer and just give them a good scrub to get the dirt off before cooking. This is especially true with varieties like the cosmic purple, since peeling them would remove their unique purple skin, and you’d be left with a regular, run-of-the-mill orange carrot. (And who wants that, when you can have its wilder, crazy cousin?)

How will you use colorful carrots this week? 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • hardlikearmour
  • L Den
    L Den
  • cratecooking
  • SoupAddict
  • ATG117
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


hardlikearmour March 6, 2013
I was just paging through the Territorial Seed catalog and came across the purplest carrot of all -- http://www.territorialseed.com/product/12052
I'm definitely going to plant some!
L D. March 4, 2013
Purple carrots spotted at the Market Basket in Somerville, MA.
cratecooking March 4, 2013
I just found purple carrots this morning at the Union Square Greenmarket!
Lindsay-Jean H. March 5, 2013
Hooray for all of the purple carrot sightings!
SoupAddict March 3, 2013
Purple Dragon carrots are just gorgeous - they have the deep magenta skins like the photos above, with orange flesh, but a light yellow core. Irresistible sliced into salads.
Lindsay-Jean H. March 4, 2013
Ooh those sound lovely!
ATG117 March 3, 2013
How does the color hold up to roasting or pan sautéing? Also, hoe does one prevent buying carrots that have an unpleasant carrot flavor?
Lindsay-Jean H. March 4, 2013
You'll definitely lose some of the color when roasting, though not as much as boiling. I haven't compared with pan sautéing (or steaming). Carrots that don't have the perfect balance of sugars and terpenoids can end up with a soapy or bitter taste. As far as I know though, there isn't any sure visual cue to avoid stumbling upon an unpleasant tasting one. Both would be good questions to ask the Hotline!
Ulli A. March 2, 2013
We also find them in Turkey, and they make a stung appearnace roaste dwith a little the, salt, pepper and thyme.
scott.finkelstein.5 March 2, 2013
I say use them with purple potatoes, beets, and cabbage in a vinaigrette (Russian) or slaw. Maybe throw some silkie chicken meat into the former.
davidpdx March 1, 2013
Thanks for the article. Portland, Oregon Saturday winter farmers market has had incredible carrots this year: orange, purple, yellow, and more. Purple have been especially good. My favorite prep (just had it again tonight) is to peel and chunk the carrots; toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper; put on baking sheet; and roast in 375 (convection) or 400 (standard) oven for 30 minutes or so. Sweet perfection.
Panfusine March 1, 2013
Love these, find them to be sweeter than the standard orange ones. Prefer to slice them into salads, the purple color bleeds into an unpalatable shade when cooked.
Diana P. March 1, 2013
Gorgeous carrot photos - generally I love growing purple-hued varieties: purple artichokes, purple-sprouting broccoli, purple mustards, purple string beans, etc. I've got to give purple carrots another try in the garden this year. I agree that they are best raw, and you certainly don't want to peel them (with the peel goes the gorgeous color)!
Kenzi W. March 1, 2013
Purple vegetables make me swoon.
darksideofthespoon March 1, 2013
I love purple carrots! Though a tale of caution, once at work; for an event, I tried making a purple carrot cake thinking it would look beautiful! After it was baked, I cut into it and it was a dreary grey colour. So disappointing and not appetizing at all! Stick to orange carrots for any carrot cake endeavors. ;)