Yellow 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)


Yellow carrots have been around for several hundred years and probably originated in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region.

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)

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)

Yellow carrots are an eastern carrot variety, and are often sweeter than the orange varieties. They are a light yellow all the way through. They have a firm, crunchy texture and have been described as tasting earthy, with notes of celery and parsley. Cultivars include Amarillo, Solar Yellow, Sunlite, and Yellowstone (image right).yellowstone carrots - yellow

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 color of carrots is due to lycopene, while polyphenol substances, mostly anthocyanins are typical for purple roots.

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. Yellow carrots contain xanthophylls and lutein, pigments similar to beta carotene, which help develop healthy eyes aid in the fight against macular degeneration and may prevent lung and other cancers and reduce the risk of astherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). These came from the Middle East. The major pigment found in the yellow carrots is xanthophyll which helps develop healthy eyes. Studies have shown that intake of xanthophyll-rich foods are associated with a significant reduction in the risk for cataract (up to 20%) and for age-related macular degeneration (up to 40%) (Moeller, Jacques & Blumberg 2000).

The latest genetic research shows conclusively that the orange carrot was developed from yellow varieties.

"The fact that orange carrots used in this research form a sister clade with all other cultivated carrots (yellow, red, and purple) supports the idea that orange carrot was selected from cultivated carrot. Furthermore, genetic evidence suggests that two recessive genes, y and y2 , play a major role in the accumulation of yellow and orange carotenoids in the root (Just et al., 2009). This observation, along with the study referenced below, provides support for Banga’s (1957b) hypothesis that orange root colour was selected out of yellow, domesticated carrots."

(Source: Iorizzo, Simon and others - Genetic Structure and Domestication of Carrot( daucus carota subsp. sativus ) (apiaceae) - American Journal of Botany 100(5): 930–938. 2013.)

Lutein, an antioxidant, 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)

In a 2004 study - "Lutein and β-carotene from lutein-containing yellow carrots are bioavailable in humans"  - to determine humans' lutein uptake from lutein-rich yellow carrots, authors PhillipSimon, 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 Nutrition,Volume 80, Issue 1, July 2004, Pages 131–136, - copy here..

A recent study from the Netherlands, in which participants were followed for a period of 10 years, has given us some fascinating new information about carrots and our risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In this study, intake of fruits and vegetables was categorized by colour. The researchers focused on four color categories: green, orange/yellow, red/purple, and white. Out of these four categories, orange/yellow (and in particular, foods with deeper shades of orange and yellow) was determined to be the most protective against CVD. Within this dark orange/yellow food group, carrots were determined to be the single most risk-reducing food. (Oude Griep LM, Monique Verschuren WM, Kromhout D et al. Colours of fruit and vegetables and 10-year incidence of CHD. Br J Nutr. 2011 Jun 8:1-8. copy here.

Cultivated carrots are divided into two groups: (1) Asian group that has traits such as yellow or purple root color, 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.

Any of the pigments in carrots serve to shield plant cells during photosynthesis. 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 carrots derive their colour mainly from lycopene, a type of carotene believed to guard against heart disease and some cancers.

Yellow carrots desirable characters such as resistance to heat, drought, salinity, pests and diseases.

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) (black carrot page here) (other carrot colours here)

Wild 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.

Purple carrots contain high doses of Vitamin A, which helps to prevent clogging of the arteries and thus helps to prevent strokes. Along with that, 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.

yellow carrot

yellow carrots

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

News! - Carrot based yellow powder introduced to the food colouring industry. Here.

Read more about all the other carrot colours here.

Popular varieties of yellow carrots include - Sunlite, Solar Yellow & Yellowstone

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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