Multi-colored carrots

DID you know that carrots are actually a multi-colored crop? Yes, it was due to a research study made some 50 years ago but I don’t know why multi-colored carrots are still not common in our local markets.

That, we owe to the Agricultural Research Service’s Vegetable Crops Research Unit at Madison, Wisconsin led by plant geneticist Philipp Simon.

Over two decades ago they bred carrots packed with beta-carotene, an orange pigment used by the body to create vitamin A. Thanks to them, our carrots today provide consumers with 75 percent more beta-carotene than those available 25 years ago.

You know what the scientists did? They selectively bred a rainbow of carrots -- purple, red, yellow, even white. They learned that these plant pigments perform a range of protective duties in the human body, which is not surprising since many of the pigments serve to shield plant cells during photosynthesis.

Red carrots derived their color 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-anthocyanins (which act as powerful antioxidants).

Unusual? Yes! But they are not exactly new. “Purple and yellow carrots were eaten more than 1,000 years ago in Afghanistan and 700 years ago in western Europe,” says Simon.

Who does not know the value of carrots? These crunchy orange roots are a well-known source of Vitamin A. Just a single, full-size carrot a day can more than fulfill an adult’s daily need of essential vitamin.

Anyone who does not like carrots, I say to you, “You missed one-half of your life” by not eating this vegetable.

Shredded in salads and slaws, steamed, or just peeled and dunked in an herb-speckled dip, carrots add colorful zest to our dinner plates. Actually, I also was not able to eat these versatile root vegetables raw until I bought organically grown ones from Dumaguete City during the 2nd Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival.

Farmers grew the crop in a newly established farm after several years of having it abandoned, and wow! The crop tasted so sweet that even my kids who were not eating it before ate it with much gusto. But of course we eat only raw carrots which are organically grown.

It’s all for the sake of good health and easier to obtain that our scientist out there are making efforts to discover something new for our benefit. What we just need to do is take advantage of what natural food nutrients can give us for a healthy living.
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