Growing Carrots: Red, Yellow, Purple & Orange

If you’re looking for an easy-growing fall crop, growing carrots might be the way to go. These root vegetables can be sown in early September for a November harvest in most milder climates, and another crop started in the early spring! Isn’t it fascinating to be able to grow fruits and vegetables of all colors of the rainbow? Growing rainbow carrots is way more exciting for me than growing regular carrots, but I love them all! With rainbow ones, you can add a variety of lovely colors to your garden and your dinner plate. Many rainbow carrots keep their colors even after cooking!

Orange carrots are the standard but there are many delicious varieties that offer roots in shades of red, yellow, white, and purple.

Let’s get started learning all about rainbow carrots and how to grow them!

What are rainbow carrots?

While orange carrots are now the norm, historically carrots had roots that were white, purple, or yellow. Carrots likely originated around Afghanistan and by the early 1400’s, we start to see orange carrots enter the historical record. It’s hard to say why orange carrots because so popular, but for a long time orange varieties were the only carrots available through seed catalogs. Recently however there has been a demand for rainbow carrots and gardeners can now choose from five main colors: orange, purple, white, red, and yellow.

Expect these carrots to grow nice and long, generally between 6 and 11 inches.

These carrots have great similarities to traditional orange carrots, where the red may be the most similar. White carrots may be a bit sweeter with less of an earthiness. Crunchy and sweet, carrots taste great cooked or raw. No matter what the color, carrots tend to be a favorite veggie for many people, especially kids.

Are rainbow carrots natural?

In a truly interesting twist, orange carrots are not the original variety. Years of careful crop selection and selective breeding helped to arrive at the delicious carrots we have today. Rainbow varieties come from the wild carrot, eventually cultivated into delicious and non-GMO veggies. Rainbow carrots are natural. They are not dyed. In fact, you can grow them from seed yourself. These veggies will grow in the rainbow colors as part of the growing process without any human intervention.

How to Grow Carrots of All Colors

When To Plant Carrots: It takes about 12 weeks for most varieties of carrots to reach maturity, but most gardeners can get two crops per year: one started in the spring, and one in the fall.
Growing rainbow carrots is just the same as growing regular orange ones. You can grow them in containers, in raised beds, or directly in the ground. The right soil consistency is arguably one of THE most important factors to successfully growing carrots. As long root vegetables, carrots grow best in a loose, fluffy, well-draining soil.

Land for growing carrots

Carrots grow best when directly sown in place. Like most root crops, they don’t take well to transplanting. Therefore, it is not recommended to start them indoors early! There are a couple of ways you can go about sowing your carrot seeds. You can either sow them in neat rows, or lightly scatter seed across a wider surface area of soil. The key to a good carrot crop is proper thinning (discussed below) moreso than the choice of sowing method.

Lightly scatter carrots seeds over the soil surface

Germination may take 7 to 21 days, depending on growing conditions and seed quality. Sometimes you can plant more seeds than you need and thin them later to ensure a good crop.

About one month later, after thinning.

Rainbow carrots may take about 75 days until they reach maturity for harvest. Keep in mind that 75 days is an average and carrots from different seed companies may result in shorter or longer growing seasons. You can pick them when they are smaller or leave them to grow to their full potential.

Harvesting Carrots

When harvesting, it’s best if you avoid grabbing the plant by the greens, as it may just break off in your hand and the root will still be underground. Instead, use a hand trowel or garden fork to loosen the soil around the carrot and then grasp the top of the root itself.
Harvest only enough carrots to use in a 2-4 week period of time if you’re not expecting a hard freeze in the near future. Carrots can remain in the soil for a month or more after their earliest harvest date.

Harvesting Carrots

Spring carrots should be harvested at or shortly after their harvest date, especially if the weather is particularly warm. If they’re in the ground too long, they may bolt to seed. This causes the root to become woody and unappetizing, also giving it a bitter flavor.

Storing Carrots

After harvesting your carrots, you’ll have a little work to do to prepare them for storage. They can be stored with some dirt still on them, or you can clean them first. We prefer to give ours a little shower first. The easiest way we’ve found to clean a large harvest of carrots at once is lay them out and blast them off with the hose. When we used to have lawn, we did it there. Now, we have a makeshift washing station – a wood frame with wire fencing attached to it.

Storing Carrots

To store our carrots, we have found the most effective way is to keep the washed carrots in sealed (reused!) ziplock bags in the refrigerator. With just a little splash of water in the bag, our carrots stay crisp and crunchy this way for MONTHS. It is important to get them into the fridge soon after harvest. Harvesting carrots during cooler weather also helps them stay firm, such as first thing in the morning.
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