Baby Black Knight
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Black Knight Carrots are a Purple Eastern Carrot that come from Turkey and are deep purple to nearly black in color with a contrasting white / yellow center.  The easiest way to distinguish between Purple Western Carrots and Purple Eastern Carrots like the Black Knight Carrot are by the color of their internal core. Eastern Purple Carrots have a yellow core while Purple Western Carrots have an orange core. This matters because the orange pigments that color the core contain the important Vitamin A precursor Beta-Carotene. Western Carrots have it, Eastern Carrots do not.

Black Knight Carrots are part of the Apiaceae plant family, which includes a number of other Vegetables and Herbs such as ParsleyCeleryFennelChervilCuminParsnips and Celeriac.  The modern domestic Carrot (Daucus carōtasativus) is the taproot of the Carrot plant which makes them, by definition, a Root Vegetable. Carrots are the second most popular Vegetable in the world running just a bit behind Potatoes, with other veggie favorites such as BroccoliOnionsLettuce and Tomatoes (technically a Fruit) in a pack close behind.

Carrots, which were purple in the wild, are believed to have been domesticated in 5000 BC. They were first mentioned in print in the 1st century. The name “carrot” has been used since late Roman times when the Root Vegetable was called “carōta” in Latin, derived from an Indo-European root “ker” meaning “horn,” describing the taproot’s horn-like shape. Think about an early cultivated purple Carrot and the horn imagery shines through much better.

Though its name takes note of the taproot, early chefs thought of Carrots as Greens and only prepared the Carrot’s aromatic leaves and seeds. The root (and seeds) were medicinal and used in herbal remedies and to dye clothing (remember they were purple).

The cultivated modern Carrot is a hybrid that originated from Wild Carrot (Daucus carōta, Carōta, aka Queen Anne’s Lace).  Hybridization of Wild Carrots created larger (and more palatable) taproots which evolved into Eastern Carrots, also called Asian Carrots, which are one of the two major types of modern Carrots produced today.  The breeding and cross-breeding history is unclear and the record keeping was not great at the time, but the first records in Europe indicate that purple and yellow Carrots arrived sometime in the 8th to 11th century and that orange Carrots appeared much later, in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Nowadays Eastern/Asian Carrots are grown mostly in Russia, Asian and Middle Eastern countries.  Globally, Purple Carrots are typically Eastern/Asian Carrots but purple hybrids made from orange Western Carrot stock have lately been gaining popularity in America and Western Europe because they are sweeter than orange Carrots and possibly have more health benefits than their orange cousins.

Season

Under the right conditions, Carrots take about 2-4 months to grow, which gardeners and farmers have learned to manipulate to keep the Carrots coming throughout the year. In the strictest, most natural sense, Carrots are known as a Fall Vegetable, though they actually have two recognized Seasons. In addition to the fall they are also a late Spring crop. The excess from one season’s crop goes into cold storage to tide all of us over until the next fresh crop of Carrots is available.

Availability

Black Knight Carrots can be available all year long through a combination of sourcing from different regions of the country and preservation of Carrots in cold storage. Carrots are a Root Vegetable and hold very well in cold storage. In practice, they are still somewhat of a rarefied product and we feel lucky to find them at all.

Cultivation

Carrots grow from seeds and should be planted in the early spring for the late Spring harvest. They are not the fastest growers and take an average of 60 to 75 days to reach full maturity. If you can see their “shoulders” and they are deep purple they are ready to be harvested. Wetting the ground a little makes it easier to pull out the purple taproot.

Carrots are biennial plants.  This means if you leave them in the ground the first year, they will produce flowers and then seeds the second year.

If you wish to grow Carrots yourself, most types do well in sandy soil and sprout in 10 to 12 days after being sown, preferably about 3/4 of an inch (2 cm) deep. Black Knight Carrots prefer soil temperatures around 59° F to 68° F (15° C to 20° C). They grow best in full sun but can tolerate some shade and do well in most climate zones. 

To keep from growing oddly shaped Black Knight Carrots, avoid tight, rocky soil that makes the taproot flex and curve as it grows.  Carrots are also a useful companion plant. They are especially helpful planted near Tomatoes, Alliums (LeeksShallots and Onions), Beans and Lettuces, and are helped to produce more themselves if grown alongside Alliums, Beans, Rosemary and Sage.

Carrot root flies threaten growing Carrots, but cultivating Carrots with fragrant (pungent) OnionsLeeks and/or Chives can help repel the pest. Carrots are known to do well around CarawayCorianderChamomile and Marigold. Flowering Carrot plants are attractive to wasps that may prey on other veggie-chomping garden bugs.

Production

Except where the climate is too hot, Carrots are grown all over the world. China (45%), Russia (4%) and the United States (3.6%) are the leading commercial producers of this economically significant agricultural product. All told, we earthlings grow about 37 tons of Carrots a year.

Domestically, California produces about 87% of all our U.S. commercially grown Carrots. Grimmways Farms is the largest individual Carrot producer and Bolthouse Farms is the second largest. Both are located in California where the ideal climate allows them to plant and harvest two crops a year. In fact, the city of Holtville, Ca claims that it is the “Carrot Capital of the World” with an Annual Carrot Festival in February and everything (the festival link goes offsite to the Holtville Chamber of Commerce). 

Most Carrots are mechanically harvested by a Carrot Harvester, a machine that harvests anywhere from 1-6 rows of field Carrots at a time by cutting the roots from below and picking up the whole plant by the leaves by grasping the leaves. The carrots are transferred to storage containers for delivery to packing facilities where they are cleaned, washed, graded and packed ready for immediate delivery to your supermarket. They are handled as carefully as possible during the harvesting, washing and packing process to avoid damaging the roots.

The fresh market, Carrots sold as fresh produce, dominates global carrot production. Varieties in this segment are sweet and crisp, rounded at the tops and bottoms with inconspicuous cores.  Uniformity, flavor, shape, color and smoothness are the traits that matter in the fresh market. About 76% of the Carrots grown in the U.S. are sold into the fresh carrot market. Within the fresh market, there is also a segment known as the Bunching market (carrots sold in bunches) that require Carrots to have a good taste and to fit the mold in terms of color, form, length, shape, and foliage (the Carrot Greens).

Purchasing

Look for Black Knight Carrots with bright, vibrant purple / black coloring and very few “hairs” growing out of the taproot. If there are hairs, that is a sign of aging, toughening, carrots.

Any Carrot Greens, the clipped top where the greens were attached, should be fresh green. If the greens are turning brown or black that is a bad sign. Small, young Carrots are likely to be sweeter than larger ones.

Storage

Black Knight Carrots are best stored wrapped in a plastic bag or in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer, which is a good place to store Carrots to keep them away from the Ethylene Gas given off by ripening Fruits. Exposure to the ethylene gas makes Carrots taste bitter. They can also absorb the odors from Apples and Pears.

Carrots will last longer if they are kept fairly dry.  Refrigerated young Carrots have a shelf life of approximately 2 weeks. Mature Carrots will last up to a month refrigerated.

Exposure to sunlight, high temperatures or physical damage can cause the Carrot roots to generate alcohol, as well as a bitter defensive chemical, which can add a solvent-like aroma to your dishes.

Removing the Carrot tops before storage increases their shelf life because the greens, as long as they are attached to the Carrot, continue to pull moisture and nutrients out of the taproot.

Culinary Uses

Black Knight Carrots are very sweet and tender. As with all Carrots, the short story on the Culinary Uses of Danvers Carrots is that they are a Root Vegetable, with a very interesting and useful footnote: they have the additional desirable trait of being a subtle Aromatic.

On Smart Kitchen’s Home Plate™ Black Knight Carrots are Raw, Tough, Thick, Moist and Lean. That is, Carrots, unlike most Root Vegetables, can be eaten Raw and do not need to be cooked to be consumed.

Fresh raw Carrots have a crisp texture but can be a little tough, especially the older, bigger ones. Luckily, they can be tenderized by cooking for a better chew. Fresh Carrots can handle a lot of cooking time and a lot of cooking heat. Cooking them also weakens their cell walls, freeing their natural sugars and making Carrots taste sweeter.

They are thick (at least usually at the root end) and can be thinned with SlicingDicingGrating, etc. With 87% water content, Carrots are Moist. They are also Lean, with a very low fat content (less than 1%). In the Smart Kitchen Home Plate™ shorthand, Carrots would be (R,T2,T4,M,L).

Back to our opening claim, that Carrots are basically a fragrant root vegetable, think of anyway that you can cook Potatoes and, technically, that method will also almost always work for Carrots. While they may get the job done, every potato cooking technique may not always be the best choice, because Carrots contain less Starch. They are also notably sweeter than Potatoes, up to 5% sugar, comprised of a mixture of glucose, sucrose and fructose.

Because they contain unique fragrance molecules (mostly due to terpenes) with hints of pine, wood, oil, citrus and turpentine, Carrots have a mild, almost violet-like, bouquet that comes out when the fragmented carotene is heated. This minor Aromatic quality makes Carrots a great way to add layered flavoring to StocksStewsSoups and other preparations. Think about how chefs use a Mirepoix to create a foundation of tastes and you will get the idea.

There are scores of good ways to prepare and use Black Knight Carrots. If you are at a loss as to how to get started Peeling CarrotsSlicing them and then Sautéing the Carrot slices along with a dab of Whole ButterSalt and Pepper, is a simple way to jump right in.

As you get more comfortable with the Black Knight Carrot, Glazing Carrots may be a good technique to try. Glazed Carrots and Caramelized Balsamic Carrots are two simple tasty ways to try Glazing Carrots for a Side Dish. Both are often garnished with Chopped Parsley for color contrast.

Portion Size

Allow 2-3 oz of Black Knight Carrot per person.

Pairings

AllspiceAlmondsAniseBaconBasilBay LeafBeef, Brandy, Salted ButterUnsalted ButterYogurtCeleryChervilTarragon, Chile Peppers, Dried Chile Peppers, Red Chile Peppers, Jalapeno, ChivesCilantroCinnamonCloves, Cod, Coriander, Crayfish, CreamHeavy CreamCrème FraicheCumin, Curry, Curry Leaves, DillFennel, Fennel Seeds, Fish, GarlicGingerHazelnutsHoney, Lamb, LeeksLemons, Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, Limes, Lime Juice, Lime Zest, Lovage, Mace, Maple Syrup, Agave, Syrup, Mint, Spearmint, Peppermint, MirepoixMustardMustard Seeds, Black Mustard Seeds, Nutmeg, OilsPeanut OilMustard OilSesame OilGrapeseed OilVegetable OilOlive OilOnionsScallionsYellow OnionsRed OnionsWhite OnionsShallots, Oranges, Orange Juice, Orange Zest, ParsleyParsnips, Peas, PecansPepperBlack PepperWhite PepperPink PepperPistachiosPotatoes, Raisins, Black Raisins, White Raisins, ChickenBeefPoultryRoasted MeatsRosemary, Rum, SageSaltKosher SaltStocksWhite Chicken StockBrown Chicken StockBeef StockVeal StockSugarBrown Sugar,Raw SugarGranulated Sugar, Tamarind, Thyme, Turnips, Veal, Vegetables, Root VegetablesGreensVinaigrettesWalnuts, White Wine, Red Wine

Nutritional Value USDA
CARROTS,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 41
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
3%
Sodium 69mg
6%
Potassium 320mg
3%
Total Carbohydrate 9g
8%
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 4g
Protein 0g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Black Knight Carrots get their purple color from a class of pigments called Anthocyanins, which act as powerful anti-oxidants and fight free radicals in the body. Anthocyanins also help prevent heart disease, slow the absorption of LDL (bad cholesterol), and are a good anti-inflammatory agent. Some studies suggest that Anthocyanins can neutralize enzymes that destroy connective tissue and that they can repair damaged proteins in blood vessel walls.

Carrots are also rich in Dietary Fiber (mostly cellulose, with smaller proportions of hemicellulose, lignin and starch), antioxidants and minerals. In addition, Carrots provide Vitamin K and Vitamin B6. We also have to mention that Carrots are about 5% Sugar. The sugars contained in Carrots include Sucrose, Glucose and Fructose.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes