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Carrot

Carrot

An Introduction
The Carrot (daucus carota subsp. sativus) is a perennial plant of the parsley family, which is widely cultivated in many varieties in temperate and tropical regions. It is basically a root vegetable having pinnately decompound leaves and umbels of small white or yellow flowers. The edible portion of a carrot is its taproot, eaten raw or cooked.

As an important source of carotene, carrot is widely recommended by physicians for innumerable medicinal purposes. These small eatables are a goldmine of nutrients and contain Vitamin A, B and C as well as calcium pectate. Its pectin fibre is beneficial in lowering the cholesterol level of the body.

A Brief History
This versatile vegetable is a native to Europe and southwestern Asia. Historians believe that the carrot originated some 5000 years ago in Afghanistan, and subsequently spread into the Mediterranean area. Interestingly, the first carrots were white, purple, red, yellow, green and black – not orange having thin and turnip coloured roots.

Egypt’s temple drawings from 2000 B.C. exhibit a plant which some Egyptologists believe to represent a large carrot. Egyptian papyruses contain information about treatment with carrot and its seeds, which were found in pharaoh crypts. Archologists have found carrot seeds in prehistoric Swiss lake dwellings giving clear evidence of human consumption. Similar findings appear also in ancient Glastonbury. The modern carrot appears to have been introduced to Europe in the 8-10th centuries.

Other Historical Findings

  • Neolithic people savoured the roots of the wild carrot for its sweet, succulent flavour
  • Carrots were among the recognised garden plant at the time of Egyptian ruler Merodach-Baladan in the eighth century B.C.
  • During the first century B.C., carrots were cultivated for food by Greeks and Romans
  • The Greeks called the carrot “Philtron” and used it as a love medicine to make men more ardent and women more yielding
  • The Greeks had three words each of which could be applied to the properties of the carrot: “Sisaron”, first occurring in the writings of Epicharmus, a comic poet (500 B.C.); “Staphylinos”, used by Hippocrates (430 B.C.) and “Elaphoboscum”, used by Dioscorides (first century AD)
  • The name Carota for the garden Carrot is found first in the writings of Athenaeus (A.D. 200), and in the book on cookery by Apicius Czclius
  • Greek physician Galen (second century A.D.) named the wild carrot daucus pastinaca (adding the name Daucus) do distinguish the Carrot from the Parsnip, though confusion remained steadfast until botanist Linnaeus set the record straight in the 18th century with his system of plant classification.
  • The name Carota for the garden Carrot is found first in the writings of Athenaeus (A.D. 200), and in the book on cookery by Apicius Czclius
  • By the eighth century people started using this plant as medicine
  • In the 10th century, carrot consumption is traced to the hill people of Afghanistan (ad 900)
  • In the 12th century Moorish invaders (from Morocco) and then Arabian traders brought seeds of purple and mutants yellow carrots to the Mediterranean via the coast of North Africa, along with spinach and aubergines
  • Subsequently cultivation of carrots was spread across Europe from Spain, into Holland, France and finally England
  • By the 13th century carrots were being grown in fields, orchards, gardens, and vineyards in Germany and France. At that time the plant was known also in China, India and the Far East
  • In the 14th century carrots were widely consumed as vegetables in the British Isles
  • In the 15th century these early varieties were introduced in England by Flemish refugees who grew them in quantity mainly in Kent and Surrey
  • By the 16th century, nearly all the botanists and writers on gardening, all over Europe, were familiar with the carrot
  • By the 17th centur, Holland was considered the leading country in carrot breeding and today’s “modern” orange version is directly descended from the Dutch-bred carrots of this time
  • In the 18th century, carrots were widely cultivated in the walled gardens of country estates
  • As early as 1918, carrot was becoming more recognised as a healthy eating option
  • During the Second World War (1939-45), the carrot was widely used as a substitute for scarce commodities. It was also a major ingredient of the “Dig For Victory” Campaign.