The Morá carrot isn't purple all the way through but has shades of lilac, orange, purple and white. / SUR

The purple carrot, the unique gastronomic symbol of Cuevas Bajas

This unusual vegetable was first introduced by the Arabs and is grown along the banks of the Genil river

ANDREA JIMÉNEZ MALAGA.

The most familiar carrots are orange, a shade introduced by the Dutch in the 16th century. Although it is currently the most widely used type of carrot, there is another that has been cultivated since the time of Al-Andalus in Malaga, specifically in the vegetable plots along the banks of the Genil river: the purple carrot. This vegetable has become the symbol of Cuevas Bajas, the inland Malaga village which is producer of it. With a tradition that passes from generation to generation, this characteristic tuber is the protagonist of a series of different events in the town and of an extensive harvesting campaign that takes place between November and December. According to the producers, it has a higher amount of antioxidants than conventional carrots.

This type of carrot, which originated from Asia, was introduced to the Iberian Peninsula by the Arabs at the time of Al-Andalus. On the banks of the Genil river, a rich, fertile plain was found ideal for its production, which has been maintained until the present day, although after the popularity of the orange carrot, this purple variety has been disappearing from the rest of the country.

Its peculiarity is its intense purple colour, as well as an average size larger than that of conventional carrots. Its interior is very unusual: with tones of lilac, mauve, orange and white.

Morá carrots are planted during the first few days of summer and are harvested in late November and early December, so its presence "has always been a sign of the arrival of cold weather", which in turn has made it the star ingredient for winter dishes such as migas, very typical in this area. In addition to being a good source of carbohydrate, it has diuretic properties, anti-carcinogenic components, vitamins A, E and B and potassium.

Its flavour is also very characteristic, with a delicate sweetness. Although the carrots can be eaten both raw and cooked, they do not respond so well to cooking as the conventional orange carrots do. To celebrate the wide range of culinary possibilities offered by the purple carrot, Cuevas Bajas holds the Fiesta de la Zanahoria Morá, the first Sunday of December every year, coinciding with the harvesting season. The farmers sell their crop in a market that is complemented with numerous activities and a huge dish of migas for the attendees.

The versatility of this vegetable has led local firms to produce products with the morá carrots, as a sign of the identity of Cuevas Bajas. Among them are dried snacks, balsamic and caramelized vinegars, jams and even beer and gin with it as an ingredient.