COLLEGE STATION — A maroon carrot first developed as a novelty for the school colors at Texas A&M University but later found to have superior health attributes has been named “Beta Sweet” in a contest that drew entries from across the country.
“Beta Sweet has a pretty good ring to it. This carrot is a good source of beta carotene and it’s sweet,” said Dr. Leonard Pike, director of Texas A&M’s Vegetable Improvement Center in announcing the winning name.
About 400 names were submitted in the contest which started with a column in Progressive Farmer magazine last November. A “Name the Maroon Carrot” committee deliberated for about one hour on a list of about 40 names that had been narrowed by Pike. The three runners-up were Beta King, Sweet Beta and Texas SunSet.
Beta Sweet was submitted by John Dunckelman of Clewiston, Fla. He will receive a collection of books from Progressive Farmer magazine, according to regional editor Karl Wolfshohl of Lubbock. Pike told the committee prior to the selection process that the name should reflect the healthful attributes of the carrot more than its ties to Texas A&M.
“The original goal was to breed a maroon carrot that would be a novelty in the home garden of Aggies,” Pike said. “But the goal changed as we were breeding for high beta carotene which has been found to prevent certain types of cancer.
“It has gone beyond being a novelty, though there may be some of that, too,” he said. “The popularity of the maroon carrot already just goes to show that flavor, health, nutrition and presentation are what’s important to consumers in vegetables.”
The maroon carrot idea dates back to 1989 when Pike found some maroon-tinged carrots in his experimental plots of regular orange carrots. Pike now will pursue a patent for the newly named Beta Sweets. He expects at least two commercial vegetable companies to test market the carrots — as fresh sliced medallions in bags — by late December.