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Black Nebula Carrots
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Black Nebula carrots are elongated roots, averaging 15 to 25 centimeters in length, and have a slender, conical to cylindrical shape, tapering to a pointed tip on the non-stem end. The roots are generally straight, and the skin is semi-smooth, firm, and dark purple-black, covered in many fine root hairs and ridges depending on the growing conditions. Underneath the surface, the flesh is crisp, dense, aqueous, and dark-purple. Black Nebula carrots, when raw, are crunchy with a bitter-sweet, mild, and earthy flavor. When the roots are cooked, the flesh softens into a tender consistency and develops a sweeter taste.
Black Nebula carrots are available in the fall through winter.
Black Nebula carrots, botanically classified as Daucus carota, are a unique, dark-hued cultivar that belongs to the Apiaceae family. The variety was developed by a seed company in the United States for home garden use and was selected for its earthy flavor, high nutritional content, and unusual purple-black hue. Black Nebula carrots also have dark purple flesh that remains saturated to the core, while many of the other black carrot varieties lose their purple hues and contain a light orange core. The roots are favored by home gardeners as a novel variety and are grown both as an ornamental and as a culinary variety, utilized in both fresh and cooked applications.
Black Nebula carrots are an excellent source of anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that give the carrot its dark purple hue and provide anti-inflammatory properties. The roots also contain some vitamins C and E, zinc, iron, and calcium.
Black Nebula carrots are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as roasting and steaming. The dark purple roots can be washed and consumed straight, out-of-hand, sliced and tossed into green salads, or roughly chopped and displayed on vegetable plates. Black Nebula carrots can also be pressed into juice to create a dark, purple-black beverage. When mixed with fresh lemon juice, the beverage transforms into a light pink hue. In Asia, kanji is a popular drink made from black carrots that are placed in a sealed container and left in the sun to ferment. Once the fermentation process is complete, the carrots are removed, and the beverage is consumed to aid in digestion, cleanse the blood, and improve complexion. Black Nebula carrots can also be grated into carrot cake, giving the dessert a purple hue, or they can be pickled for extended use. The dark-colored roots retain their color through the cooking process, but it is important to note that the juice may stain hands, clothing, the tongue, and other materials. When cooked, the roots are popularly roasted, developing a sweet and caramelized earthy flavor, and they can be tossed into soups and stews or cooked with roasted meats. Black Nebula carrots can also be lightly steamed and mixed with mashed potatoes, rice dishes, or vegetable medleys. Black Nebula carrots pair well with meats such as poultry, beef, and pork, potatoes, green chile peppers, radish, onions, garlic, quinoa, barley, chickpeas, spices such a paprika, nutmeg, and curry powder, pistachios, lemon juice, and herbs such as parsley, coriander, dill, and rosemary. The roots will keep 1-4 weeks when loosely stored in a plastic bag with good air circulation in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
In the United States, black carrots such as the Black Nebula are popularly used as a natural food and clothing dye. The high anthocyanin content of the Black Nebula’s flesh provides a rich, dark purple hue, and to make the dye, the carrots are either shredded or sliced into a water bath with salt and vinegar, which act as a mordant or fixative to help the color absorb into the fabric. Natural dye provides a healthier alternative to the chemically processed colorants and depending on the number of carrots and ingredients used, the dye can appear dark purple, purple-blue, or magenta. Black carrot dye can also be used to color beverages, candies, and foods such as ice cream, yogurts, mashed potatoes, cakes, and rice.
Black Nebula carrots were created by Seeds by Design, a seed company based in Maxwell, California, and were released through online catalogs in 2016. The dark purple root was developed for home gardening and is an open-pollinated variety favored for its saturated hues, earthy flavor, and unique appearance. Today Black Nebula carrots are a rare variety that is still found through online seed catalogs for home garden use and are also sometimes found at farmer's markets, grown locally by specialty farms.