When we think of carrots most of us imagine just two varieties that we get in the market. One is orange coloured popularly called the Chinese carrot and the other is red carrot. The red carrot is seasonal and mainly used to prepare halwa.
But apart from these two, there are more types of delicious and versatile carrots. From purple to yellow, let’s have a look at these awesome and healthy ingredients that will make us realize why rabbits love this root vegetable.
The varieties of carrots available in India
Carrot is not just a sweet-delicious root vegetable but it is nutritious too. Cultivated all over the country it has medicinal properties.
In India, farmers cultivate four types of carrots: karud kesari (orange-coloured variety) red carrot (desi gajar), black or purple carrot (Kala gajar), white carrot (safed gajar) and yellow gajar.
Orange-coloured varieties have high amounts of vitamin A (carotene). Carrots are high in fibre hence promoting the feeling of fullness. This aids digestion and bowel movement. Interestingly it is known to be beneficial for the kidneys.
It also contains a form of calcium that can be easily assimilated by the body. This helps lower bad cholesterol levels. Apart from this, they also aid eye health due to their beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein content.
Let’s slice the carrots
Cultivation of carrots: Carrots can be grown throughout the year at an elevation above 1500 metres with assured irrigation. At elevations between 1000 – 1500 metres, it can be grown from July – February.
Unlike mangoes, the desi varieties of carrots do not have names. They get their identity from the area they are grown, like Delhi, Sirsa, Hisar, Pusa and so on. The most interesting carrot is the yellow type. It has a flavour like the spice jeera, therefore, is used to make pickles.
Region availability: Carrot is cultivated in various states in India. Though Haryana is the leading producer of carrots, Punjab, Bihar and Assam too follow. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Nilgiri, Shevroy Hills and Karnataka too find themselves on the list.
Types of carrots
Bright orange-scarlet, many call them Chinese carrots too. From the agricultural point of view, it falls in the Asian variety hence the name. This modern-day orange carrot wasn’t cultivated until the late 16th Century when the Dutch farmers took strains of the purple carrot and gradually developed them into the sweet, stocky, orange variety of today. It was the Brits that brought these carrots when they came to India.
They get their colour from the pigments called beta-carotene which make them rich in Vitamin A. The carrots are of the hybrid variety and are short and stumpy to look at. The beta-carotene differs from that found in the red variety. But orange carrots too loaded with other vitamins like E and K. It also contains the eye-healthy antioxidants lutein and lycopene.
Taste: As they are not too sweet, they are best used to make savoury dishes. Though they can be used to make desserts.
Availability: They are generally found all through the year.
A popular sweet-tasting root vegetable, this cone-shaped carrot is cultivated in the locales of the sub-tropical highland of Ooty as the climate is seen to be perfect for carrot farming and also for the colour of the carrot. Antioxidants and carotenoids present in the carrot, reduce the risk of cancer. It eases constipation and also strengthens bones and prevents osteoporosis.
Taste: Ooty Carrot is a healthy and crunchy root vegetable. It is perfect for serving raw in salads. Sweet in taste, it is great in stews, noodles, sweets and many main course dishes.
Packed with nutrition this variety cannot tolerate heat hence found in the winter. They get their colour from beta carotene. The compound beta carotene is necessary to make vitamin A, which is needed for good eyesight. These carrots have more health benefits than the orange variety.
Taste: Sweet lovers delight, this variety of carrots is sweet to taste. Perfect for gajar halwa, the dessert of our Capital, this variety also lends itself to savoury dishes only if you like the hint of ‘meetha’ in your sabji.
Availability: These types are found mainly in winter as these types of gajar cannot tolerate heat.
This type is an exotic type of carrot. The white is less sweet than the red type. These carrots are not indigenous but more of an exotic variety. The production of this type is not high.
Popular with those who don’t like sweets, this variety lacks the pigment found in other carrot varieties. This gives safed gajar a lower nutritional value. Yet it contains health-promoting phytochemicals and other compounds that work to protect us against disease. White carrots are grown in Uttar Pradesh and hit the market only during the winter till February. These are used to make the irresistible safed gajar halwa.
Taste: White carrot is less sweet than other types of carrot.
Availability: They are available for a short time only in winter.
Black or purple carrot
Go to Varanasi to get the taste of this unique carrot. Varanasi is particularly popular for its black carrot or kala gajar halwa. This type was known to be widely cultivated in ancient India. It can be used for making kanji, pickles, murabba, pickles and halwa. Tastier than the usual red one it looks good too.
Out of all the varieties grown the black-purple variety has more for its health benefits. The case of the purple carrot is very interesting. It has the highest shelf life and highest carotene content.
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