Cosmic Purple, Purple Haze and Purple Dragon!
No, these are not the names of Barbie and her fashionista side-kicks. These are the names of purple carrot varieties.
The perfectly smooth and uniformly shaped torpedoes that are so versatile in the Indian cuisine from Gajar ka halwa to carrot poriyal were originally not orange but the sparkling Barbie colour – Purple. This colour of the carrot was used as clothing dye by the Afghan Royals.
The purple carrot is now making a comeback in the western market. The main attraction is its health benefits. The pigment that imparts the purple colour is Anthocyanin. Anthocyanin has anti-oxidative properties that are also found in Green tea. These pigments act as powerful antioxidants that protect key cell components, grabbing and holding on to harmless radicals in the body. Anthocyanins also help to prevent heart disease by slowing down blood clotting processes and these are also good anti-inflammatory agents.
Purple carrot, the ancestor of orange carrots were originated in Afghanistan and Turkey before the 900s. Regions of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were centres, rich with these carrots. In the 1100s, carrot cultivation spread to Spain via the Middle East and North Africa. By the time, the humble purple carrot made its entry to Europe, it had genetically mutated to white and orange roots. This carrot type spread to the West and now dominates the entire world. Ultimately, the purple carrot vanished from mainstream society.
As is the habit of the west to popularise old indigenous customs as its own – The purple carrot has made a comeback as a healthier variant to the orange carrot.
Along with other benefits, the purple carrot given to its anthocyanin pigment can reverse the effects of high fat diet, high blood pressure, cardiac fibrosis and abdominal fat deposition.
- Comparison of purple carrot juice and b-carotene in a high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet-fed rat model of the metabolic syndrome; British Journal of Nutrition (2010), 104, 1322–1332
- J. Agric. Food Chem.20014931410-1416 Publication Date: February 8, 2001 – https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/jf000595h
Manasvi is an aspiring science communicator who has blogged at various platforms such as Lotus stemm, Science Gallery, Life of Science, Back your science and Sciteum. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Plant systematics. In her free time, she can be found cooking with her grandma, ranting on twitter and humming to Taylor swift.