Carrot, scientifically called as Dacauscarota consumed as a packet of nutrition by the humans right from the pre-historic times. Nowadays the most acceptable and demanding form of carrot to humans is “Red”. While looking back onto the pre historic times carrot was originally found to be only of two colors – white and purple. It seems hard to realize it as both of these colours of carrots are least available in the consumer market now. A mutation resulted in shift of colour from white to yellow and this was the beginning of genetic variations in the carrot color. Whereas carrots at Netherlands were specifically bred for the orange colour. The carrot with white colour is believed to be the wild form named as “Queen Annes Lace” and is the progenitor of the modern red colored carrot. From the crosses between wild and cultivated varieties different variants originated. Nowadays we have a wide variation of color in carrots – black, purple, red, white, orange, and yellow.
The point to ponder is that what caused the white carrot to give such diversifying colour, what is the cause of these colours and what are the specifications related to the changed colours and how they are useful. Actually the wild carrot was domesticated in Central Asia. The traits that had undergone a change during domestication included a large taproot with a reduction in lateral branches and the most important of all is the accumulation of carotenoid pigments that is involved in imparting different colours to the carrot. The plant breeders had manipulated the carotenoid pigment contents and resulted in breeding new varieties with different colours and colour related properties suitable to the modern consumers.
Apart from these genetic causes certain environmental factors are also associated with the changing colours of carrot. Unusual temperatures (variation from the optimum temperatures) reduce the coloring pigments in carrot. While excessive watering also decreases the color appearance. Whereas growing carrots in the sandy soil rather than a loamy soil and cultivation in spring season give more enhanced colours. Few of the characteristics associated with the colour of carrot are discussed here.
White carrot is the least nutritious. It has no beneficial nutrients and lacks the health promoting components that are associated to provide nutrition and keep away from the diseases. They do not hold much significance to humans.
This form consists of a large amount of beta carotene and an entirely different class of pigment anthocyanin. This holds good for the humans to combat diseases like heart diseases, aging, and cholesterol problems.
The black ones have anthocyanins in them, which aids in coping up the human problems of itching and scalp disorders. Moreover, a research is being conducted for its anti-cancer properties.
This one has a combination of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene pigments; both of them are associated with the development of orange colour. It is a rich source of Vitamin A which is good for eye sight. Moreover, it is also a good source of fiber. Apart from this, orange carrot is highly helpful in combating the respiratory disorders in humans.
This category of carrot lacks the beta carotene pigment but contains xantophylls and lutene, which are similar to beta-carotene. These pigments help to combat the muscular degeneration problems, while Xantophylls is basically associated with maintain healthy eyes and vision.
Another form of carotene “Lycopene” often found in red coloured vegetables and fruits arealso present in the Red carrot. These pigments help to fight different forms of cancers specially the prostate cancer and muscular degeneration.
The carrots are once again being evolved for development of different colours and traits with the best nutritional values for the consumers. One can go to a superstore and observe the wide variation of carrot colors and benefit from the results of new research that has signified the importance of micronutrients found in the different colored carrots.
The authors are associated with the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.