Red Carrots

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The main colours of carrots now have their own pages  -  purple - black - white - yellow - red (click colour to select)

(carrot history here, history of carrot colour here)

red carrots

red carrots

Red carrots have been around for several hundred years and probably originated in the Pakistan region. The “redness” feature is thought to have emerged in varieties developed in post classical times, after hybridisation with a central Asian species in the early Middle ages.

In around 950, Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq's produced a cookbook, the most comprehensive work of its kind. This traditional cookbook with more than 600 recipes using medieval ingredients and dishes from the luxurious cuisine of medieval Islam is also a rare guide to the contemporary culinary culture. He described the carrots used in his recipes thus:

Jazar - carrots. Of the cultivated varieties

1. Red Carrot (jazar ahmar) literally 'red', described as juicy, tender, and delicious. Poets compare it to carnelian, rubies, flames of fire, and coral reeds.

2. Yellow Carrot (jazar asfar), thicker and denser in texture than the red.

3. White Carrot (jazar abyad) similar to parsnips, aromatic, and deliciously sharp in taste. It is also described as having a pleasant crunch.

The first European author who mentions red and yellow carrots is the Byzantine dietician Simeon Seth, in the 11th century.

(references: Dioscorides MM 3,57, E 2.101;Galen AF 6.654, SF 11.862; Athenaeus D 371d-e citing Diphilus of Siphnos (karo); Simeon Seth p35 Langkavel)

Also Ibn al-Awam, in Andalusia, describes both red and yellow carrots. Ibn al-Awam was an Arab agriculturist who flourished at Seville in Spain about the end of the 12th century. He wrote a treatise on agriculture in Arabic called Kitab al-Falahah (English: Book on Agriculture), which is the most comprehensive treatment of the subject in medieval Arabic, and one of the most important medieval works on the subject in any language. It was published in Spanish and French translations in the 19th century. The edition in French, from which this extract is taken, is about 1350 pages. (1864 translation here)

Red Carrots contain more lycopene than other varieties, and have a pinkish red to purplish red outside layer with a core of pink to orange. One cultivar, called Beta-Sweet, is a cross between a western and an eastern carrot. Red carrots are usually sweeter than regular carrots. Cultivars of red carrots include Beta-Sweet, Atomic Red, and Red Samurai.

Cultivated carrots originated in the Afghanistan region and were yellow and purple. From this center of domestication carrots were grown as a root crop to the East and West with the incorporation of several characteristics contrasting those two geographic regions. The Eastern carrot spread to central and north Asia and then to Japan.

Red coloured carrot is typical for India and also was introduced to Japan. In contrast, Western carrot type is characterized initially by yellow and later by orange root colour. This carrot type spread to West and now dominates in Europe and America. Carrot is rich in pro-healthy antioxidants both of lipophylic (carotenoids) and hydrophilic (phenolic compounds) characters. Although carotenoid content varies considerably among carrot genotypes, usually orange carrots contain high amounts of α- and β- carotene; yellow carrots contain lutein, the red colour of carrots is due to lycopene, while polyphenol substances, mostly anthocyanins are typical for purple roots.

Carrots of Asian origin belonging to Eastern gene pool are more often purple or red and richer in phenolics and have higher antiradical activity than those from the Western gene pool with mainly orange roots.

Red Carrots found in an Asian supermarket in Bradford UK (Pakistani variety)

rec carrots

red and orange carrots size

Red carrot Indian variety - Found in USA store

red carrot Indian variety - USA

The colour of yellow, orange and red carrots is the result of certain carotenoid pigments present in the root. These carotenoids can be divided into hydrocarbon pigments or carotenes and oxygenated pigments or xanthophylls.

Red carrots contain a natural pigment called lycopene, (another form of carotene) a pigment also found inmalbec red carrot tomatoes and watermelons; lycopene is associated with the reduced risk of macular degeneration, serum lipid oxidation, helps prevent heart disease and a wide variety of cancers including prostate cancer. Originally from India and China. Red carrots contain the pigment known as lycopene which has been associated with a lowered risk of prostate cancer in men and heart disease. It also helps maintain healthy skin. Red carrots are often referred to as "Pakistani" carrots, and often found in the Asian supermarkets in the UK. (photo right Malbec variety, available from DT Browns, UK) Popular red varieties include Atomic Red, Supreme Chantenay & Red Samurai

Enjoying red carrots with a healthy fat source can help increase absorption since lycopene is fat-soluble.   Cooking lycopene-rich vegetables can also increase the amount of lycopene that you absorb because the cooking process frees the pigment from the cell walls of the plant.

Lutein, an antioxidant, is also found in red carrots, higher than orange but slightly less than yellow carrots. This is one of the hydroxy carotenoids that make up the macular pigment of human retinas. Consuming foods high in lutein may increase the density of this pigment and decrease the risk for developing macular degeneration, an age-related disease and the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. (Lutein is also found in green leafy vegetables)  Red carrot cultivars also contain α-carotene, β-carotene, and lutein, the amounts varying by type of red carrot.

In a study to determine humans' lutein uptake from lutein-rich yellow carrots, Simon, along with UW's Sherry Tanumihardjo, recruited nine 23- to 28-year-old volunteers to eat the carrots and take a lutein supplement. By reading the participants' blood serum levels, the researchers found that lutein from the carrots was 65 percent as bioavailable as it was from the supplement.

Tanumihardjo, an assistant professor in UW's Department of Nutritional Sciences, says, "While other foods might contain higher levels of lutein - like spinach for instance - lutein is absorbed very well from lutein-rich carrots." The lutein study appeared in the July 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical carrots Bradford UK

Purple, red, yellow and white carrots were cultivated long before the appearance of the now popular orange carrot, which was developed and stabilized by Dutch growers in the 15th century. Cultivated carrots are divided into two groups: (1) Asian group that has traits such as yellow or purple root colour, slightly soft texture, low sweet, pubescent leaves which give a green grey appearance, bolt easily, adapted to warm temperature; and (2) European group that has orange, yellow, red or white root in colour, firm textured, sweet, less pubescent green leaves, slow bolting and acclimated to cool temperature (Rubatzky and Yamaguchi 1997).

The cultivated carrot is believed to originate from Afghanistan before the 900s, as this area is described as the primary centre of greatest carrot diversity (Mackevic 1929), Turkey being proposed as a secondary centre of origin (Banga 1963). The first cultivated carrots exhibited purple or yellow roots. Carrot cultivation spread to Spain in the 1100s via the Middle East and North Africa. In Europe, genetic improvement led to a wide variety of cultivars. White and orange-coloured carrots were first described in Western Europe in the early 1600s (Banga 1963). Concomitantly, the Asiatic carrot was developed from the Afghan type and a red type appeared in China and India around the 1700s (Laufer 1919; Shinohara 1984). According to this history, it makes sense to envisage that colour should be considered as a structural factor in carrot germplasm.

In May 2016 May 2016 scientists have unveiled the gene in carrots that gives rise to carotenoids, a critical source of Vitamin A and the pigment that turns some fruits and vegetables bright orange or red. The new, high-quality genome assembly, which the researchers established for an orange doubled-haploid carrot (Nantes variety), contains more than 32,000 predicted protein-coding genes. .As the researchers reported  they were able to track down a candidate gene involved in orange carrot pigmentation and gained insight into the evolution of plants in the euasterid II lineage, which contains carrots, lettuce, sunflower, celery, and parsley. Read more about the carrot genome here.

Many of the pigments in carrots serve to shield plant cells during photosynthesis. Red carrots derive their colour mainly from lycopene, a type of carotene believed to guard against heart disease and some cancers. Yellow carrots accumulate xanthophylls, pigments similar to beta-carotene that support good eye health. Purple carrots possess an entirely different class of pigments from the other carrot colours - anthocyanins - which act as powerful antioxidants. Red Carrot slice

Carrots became widely cultivated in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries and were first brought over to North America during this same general time period. The noble carrot has long been known as an orange vegetable. Generations of people in the West have grown up believing that carrots are always orange. But long before the Orange carrot became established in the 16th century the purple (or maroon) carrot existed across in Asia and the eastern Mediterranean.  (carrot history here, history of carrot page colour here)

The main colours of carrots now have their own pages  -  purple - black - white - yellow - red

red carrot Indian variety - USAWild carrot has a small, tough pale fleshed bitter white root; modern domestic carrot has a swollen, juice sweet root, usually orange.   By the 10th century purple carrots were grown in Afghanistan and northern Iran which are considered the centres of origin. Purple, white and yellow carrots were imported to southern Europe in the 14th century. Black, red and white carrots were also grown. Purple carrots were used as a clothing dye for Afghan royalty.  Much later, in the 15th century some motivated Dutch growers developed orange rooted carrots and made them sweeter and more practical.

Red carrots contain a good dose of Vitamin A, which helps to prevent clogging of the arteries and thus helps to prevent strokes. Higher levels are found in Orange and Purple carrots. They also contain vitamin B, C and E as well as calcium pectate, which is a very good source of fibre, and they help to lower cholesterol levels. They are also very useful in the prevention of macular degeneration.

Common Varieties include Atomic Red, Kyoto Red and Nutri Red - full of flavour, striking red carrots that are meant to be cooked rather than eaten raw. This variety is extremely high in lycopene, the same antioxidant found in tomatoes. The colour actually increases when cooked, and the lycopene becomes more accessible to the body.

Red Carrot jam and pickle has always been popular in Middle Eastern cultures, and found in 12th century recipes right up to the modern day. carrot jam page here

red carrot jam

Red carrots were included in this Carrot Pudding recipe of 1755 - "The family's best friend, or The whole art of cookery made plain and easy: together with a complete system of brewery" Arabella Fairfax, London.  (Image below, source US National Library of Medicine, Digital Collections)

red carrot pudding

Red Carrot Recipe - Red Soup!


6 medium sized tomatoes 2 big sized red carrots 4 " piece of bottle gourd (doodhi / lauki) 1 small beetroot 1 tsp cream or butter 3 tsp sugar salt according to taste black pepper (kalimirch) powder to taste


1.Cut tomatoes, peeled carrots, bottlegourd and peeled beetroot into pieces and pressure cook. 2.Take 3 whistles and let it cool. 3.Blend and sieve. 4.Put sugar, salt and black pepper. 5.Boil for 3-4 mins and add cream or butter before serving.

An interesting recipe from an old Oz newspaper

Carrot Pie (The Land (Sydney, NSW : 1911 - 1954), Friday 21 March 1919)

Two red carrots, two ounces of currants, quarter of a pound of sugar, one lemon, two eggs, and some short pastry. Grate the carrots into a basin, mix in the sugar, currants, grated rind of lemon, and two eggs. Line a plate with the pastry. Put on the mixture and bake in a moderate oven for an hour. A little butter and a few breadcrumbs sprinkled over the top is an improvement to the pie.

Carotenoid Properties of Carrot Colours

Extract from Carotenoid Profiles and Consumer Sensory Evaluation of Speciality Carrots, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2004

J. Agric. Food Chem. 2004, 52, 3417-3421

carotenoids in red carrots
red and other colours of carrots   red and yellow carrots

Read more about all the other carrot colours here.

Popular red varieties include - Malbec, Supreme Chantenay & Red Samurai

Some reference material here:

• Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC). Carrot Profile. 2011;Iowa State University, Ames, IO. Available online at:

• de Jesus Ornelas-Paz J , Yahia EM and Gardea-Bejar AA. Bioconversion Efficiency of B-Carotene from Mango Fruit and Carrots. Vitamin A Journal: American Journal of Agricultural and Biological Science Year: 2010 Vol: 5 Issue: 3 Pages/record No.: 301-308. 2010.

• Imsic M, Winkler S, Tomkins B et al. Effect of storage and cooking on beta-carotene isomers in carrots ( Daucus carota L. cv. 'Stefano'). J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 28;58(8):5109-13. 2010.

• Kjellenberg L, Johansson E, Gustavsson KE et al. Effects of harvesting date and storage on the amounts of polyacetylenes in carrots, Daucus carota. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Nov 24;58(22):11703-8. Epub 2010 Oct 21. 2010.

• Lemmens L, Colle IJ, Van Buggenhout S et al. Quantifying the influence of thermal process parameters on in vitro B-carotene bioaccessibility: a case study on carrots. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Apr 13;59(7):3162-7. Epub 2011 Mar 15. 2011.

Studies on the inheritance of root color and carotenoid content in red x yellow and red x white crosses of carrot, daucus carota l.l J. G. Buishand and W. H. Gabelman Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA 1979

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