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AGRICULTURE REPORT – July 2, 2002: Purple Carrots - 2002-07-01

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

The carrot is a plant with a root that is eaten as a vegetable. Carrots are grown throughout the world. When people think about carrots, they create a mental picture of a long, thin, orange-colored vegetable. Yet carrots come in many different sizes, shapes and colors.

This summer, food stores in Britain will have a new product: purple-colored carrots. However, purple carrots are not really new. Reports say the carrot is simply returning to its true color.

The history of the carrot dates back thousands of years. Purple carrots are native to the Middle East and the area that is now Afghanistan. There are reports that pictures made in Egypt four-thousand years ago show a plant believed to be a purple carrot.

People in ancient Greece and Rome grew carrots that had thin, hard roots. They used the plants as a medicine, not as a food. Carrots similar to modern ones were common in Europe by the thirteenth century. They were several different colors.

It was not until about four-hundred years ago that carrots became orange. That is when farmers in The Netherlands produced orange carrots from yellow and red ones in honor of their national color.

Carrots are easy to grow and harvest. They grow best in deep, rich soil that contains sand or soft, wet dirt. A crop takes about one-hundred days to grow.

Carrots have a pleasing taste. People eat uncooked carrots alone or with other vegetables. Cooked carrots also are popular.Orange carrots contain carotene, a substance used by the human body to produce Vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for healthy skin and eyes. Carrots also contain other vitamins and are rich in sugar and the element potassium.

Farmers in eastern England are growing the new purple-colored carrots. They call their crop Purple Haze. The vegetables are purple on the outside and orange in the inside. The carrots contain anthocyanin (an-tho-S(EYE)-ah-nihn), a substance believed to increase protection against cancer.

Food store officials in Britain say they hope children will eat more of the brightly colored carrots. They say the new product will cost a little more than other carrots.

Reports say carrot buyers in Britain soon will have other colors to choose from, including yellow, red, and even black and white.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.