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Dragon carrots are cylindrical roots, averaging 15 to 20 centimeters in length, and generally have an elongated shape that tapers to a rounded tip, but depending on the soil and growing conditions, the roots may also appear shorter and thicker. The skin is semi-smooth, lightly ridged, and has a variegated red-purple hue. Underneath the surface, the flesh is crunchy, dense, and bright orange, transitioning into a central yellow core. Dragon carrots have a balanced, sweet, and subtly spicy flavor with earthy and herbal undertones.
Dragon carrots are available year-round.
Dragon carrots, botanically classified as Daucus carota, are an heirloom variety that belongs to the Apiaceae family. The purple-hued roots were developed as a specialty cultivar in the United States and were selected for their unusual coloring and sweet-spicy flavor. The carrot was also reportedly bred from the danvers variety, inheriting its adaptability, easy-to-grow characteristics, and extended storage capabilities. While Dragon carrots are not currently commercially cultivated on a large scale, partially due to consumer resistance to colored carrots, they have become a favored variety grown by specialty farms and in home gardens. Dragon carrots are also known as Purple Dragon and Red Dragon carrots in local markets and are commonly utilized by chefs in culinary applications that highlight the root’s unusual coloring.
Dragon carrots are an excellent source of anthocyanins and lycopene, which are both antioxidants that give the root its purple-red, pigmented hue. Anthocyanins have been shown to help boost the immune system, while lycopene is believed to improve heart health and act as an anti-inflammatory.
Dragon carrots are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as blanching, steaming, sautéing, roasting, and stewing. The roots can be consumed fresh, out-of-hand as a crunchy snack, sliced onto crudité plates and served with dips, shredded into colorful carrot salads, or chopped and tossed into green salads. Dragon carrots can also be steamed or blanched as a simple side dish, roughly chopped and tossed into soups and stews, layered under roasts, cooked into sauces, or minced into meatloaf. The colorful roots retain their flavor when cooked and are commonly used as a vegetable pasta substitute. They also color dishes with a purple hue and are used in risotto, rice, and hummus. Dragon carrots pair well with herbs such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, and coriander, spices such as curry powder, turmeric, and ginger, radishes, parsnips, cabbage, shallots, celery, tomatoes, sesame seeds, garbanzo beans, sour cream, and raisins. The roots will keep 4-6 weeks when stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Dr. Navazio, creator of the Dragon carrot, is a scientist and plant breeding specialist that also promotes sustainable seed saving programs. As a founding member of the Organic Seed Alliance, a nonprofit that was born out of the Abundant Life Seed Foundation, Dr. Navazio leads educational seminars for farmers and home gardeners across North America and teaches with a hands-on approach to encourage organic plant breeding, conservation, and seed saving. The Organic Seed Alliance also works to innovate and educate gardeners on the importance of seed diversity and adapting to changing environmental conditions. Through these outreach programs, the organic seed industry has expanded, and more farms are available with seeds to fulfill the increasing market demand.
Dragon carrots were created by breeder Dr. John Navazio and were developed from an unknown USDA specimen. Believed to be a descendant of the danvers carrot, Dragon carrots are still considered somewhat rare as they are not commercially cultivated and were selected as a specialty cultivar to promote diversity among home gardeners and farmer’s markets. Today Dragon carrots are widely available through online seeds catalogs in the United States for home gardening and are also sold through local farmer’s markets.
Recipes that include Dragon Carrots. One is easiest, three is harder.
|My Emerald Kitchen||Dragon Carrot Risotto|