YOU may be excused for thinking that the bunches of purple carrots called purple haze on sale at Millets Farm Shop, near Abingdon, are a modern gimmick, bred to add even more colour to the plate in these colour-conscious times.

But this is not so.

Carrots date back more than 5,000 years and by Roman times were either purple or white. Black, red and green/yellow carrots were first grown in the UK during the 15th century.

They finally became orange when Dutch growers used a mutant yellow carrot seed from North Africa to develop a carrot - in the colour of the House of Orange - for the Dutch Royal Family.

This orange carrot soon become the dominant species around the world.

So it's the ubiquitous orange carrot which is the manipulated one, not the purple variety now becoming widely available and seen as having life-giving properties because of its colour.

This classic Italian method of cooking carrots - of any colour - is really easy and proves a tasty way of transforming your simple vegetable into something really appetising.

To cook a dish of carrots that will serve four, you will need: One bunch purple haze carrots 4 tspns olive oil 6 whole garlic cloves oz (20g) caster sugar 3 tbsns balsamic vinegar Small bunch parsley Salt and freshly-ground black peppercorns to season Method: Scrub the carrots and only peel them if you must, as the main colour is in the skin Cut carrots into rounds and cook them gently in the oil for about ten minutes Add the cloves of garlic whole without chopping and fry for another half-an-hour over the lowest heat you can possibly get. This will infuse a mild garlic taste to the dish When the carrot skin begins to brown, you know they are done.

Add the salt, sugar and vinegar, and cook on until the vinegar has evaporated Chop the parsley fine and scatter over the carrots and serve immediately as an extra vegetable.

Note: Try adding a raw purple haze carrot to the children's lunchboxes and see what they think. There will be very little flavour difference, but they might be encouraged to try them because of their colour.