Carrots are a root vegetable, usually orange in colour, though purple, black, red, white, and yellow cultivars exist. Carrots are a domesticated form of the wild carrot, Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia.
The wild ancestors of carrots probably originated in Persia (regions of which are now Iran and Afghanistan) while the modern carrot originated in Afghanistan in the 10th century.
When they were first cultivated, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds rather than their roots. Carrot seeds have been found in Switzerland and Southern Germany dating back to 2000–3000 BC.
The plant was introduced into Spain by the Moors in the 8th century. In the 10th century, roots from West Asia, India and Europe were purple. The 11th-century Jewish scholar Simeon Seth describes both red and yellow carrots and cultivated carrots appeared in China in the 14th century, and in Japan in the 18th century.
Orange-coloured carrots appeared in the Netherlands in the 17th century, which is the same time period during which European settlers introduced the carrot to colonial America.
Carrot cultivars can be grouped into two broad classes, Eastern and Western.
- Eastern carrots were domesticated in Persia during the 10th century. Eastern carrot specimans that survive to the present day are commonly purple or yellow, and often have branched roots.
- Western carrots emerged in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Western carrot cultivars are generally orange and are commonly classified by their root shape. The four general types are:
- Chantenay: roots are shorter than others, have vigorous foliage and greater girth, being broad in the shoulders and tapering towards a blunt, rounded tip. They store well, have a pale-coloured core and are mostly used for processing.
- Danvers: have strong foliage and roots are longer than Chantaney types, have a conical shape with a well-defined shoulder, tapering to a point. Danvers cultivars store well and are used both fresh and for processing.
- Imperator: vigorous foliage, high sugar content, long and slender roots, tapering to a pointed tip. Imperator types are the most widely cultivated by commercial growers.
- Nantes: sparse foliage, cylindrical, short with a blunt tip, attain high yields in a range of conditions. The skin is easily damaged and the core is deeply pigmented. They are brittle, high in sugar and store less well than other types.
Popular Ontario varieties include Caropak, Cellobunch, Chancellor, Six-Pak, Avenger, Apache, and Caro-chief.
1 serving of carrots = 1 medium carrot or 8 baby carrots (approximately 85 g)
- contains approximately 35 calories
- source of potassium, fibre and vitamin C
- excellent source of Vitamin A
BUYING AND STORING
- Look for firm, crisp carrots with a smooth, blemis-free exterior.
- Oversized carrots may have tough centres
- For fresh bunched carrots, remove the leafy green tops as soon as possible because it robs the roots of moisture and vitamins.
- Store in plastic for up to three weeks in refrigerator crisper.
- You can buy topped Ontario carrots year-round, packed in clear plastic bags. Store, in original packaging, as you would bunching carrots.
- For longer storage, keep carrots cool and moist in a root cellar or similar cool place.
- Avoid storing carrots near apples, which emit ethylene gas that can give carrots a bitter taste
- used in baking, especially in desserts like carrot cake
- eaten raw on their own or as part of salads
- used as a garnish
- used in stews, casseroles and soups
- steamed or broiled and served with butter
- stir-fried with other vegetables
- pan-roasted with meats
- pureed into baby food
- In its wild state, carrots are known as Queen Anne’s Lace.
- Some close relatives of the carrot are still grown for their leaves and seeds, such as parsley, cilantro, coriander, fennel, anise, dill and cumin.
- The carrot is usually orange in colour although purple, red, white, and yellow varieties also exist.
- The actual plant of a carrot (greens above ground) can grow up to 1 m (3.2 ft) tall and flowers around June to August (northern hemisphere summer) with a bright white flower.
- It is true that eating massive amounts of carrots can sometimes cause a person’s skin to turn yellowish orange. This is most noticeable on the palms or soles of feet and is called carotenemia. But don’t worry it requires a high amount of carrot consumption and is completely fixable just by reducing carrot intake.
Have a great carrot recipe to share? Let us know and we’ll a link to it on this page!
- Wikipedia (July 2017). Carrot. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrot
- Foodland Ontario. Carrots. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/foodland/food/carrots
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAOSTAT Data. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data
- Canadian Produce Marketing Association. Nutrition Facts. Retrieved from http://www.cpma.ca/pdf/HealthNutrition/NFTENJuly2016.pdf
- Tyler Herbst, Sharon. (2001). The New Food Lover’s Companion (3rd ed.). New York: Barron’s Educational Series.