Know your Carrots

  • The carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) is a root vegetable, usually orange in colour, though purple, red, white, or yellow varieties exist. 
  • It has a crisp texture when eaten fresh. 
  • The edible part of a carrot is a taproot. 
  • It is a domesticated form of the wild carrot Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia. 
  • In early use, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds, not their roots. 
    • Some relatives of the carrot are still grown for these, such as parsley, fennel, dill and cumin. 
  • It has been bred for its greatly enlarged and more palatable, less woody-textured edible taproot, but is still the same species.
  • It is a biennial plant which grows a rosette of leaves in the spring and summer, while building up the stout taproot, which stores large amounts of sugars for the plant to flower in the second year. 
  • The flowering stem grows to about 1 metre (3 ft) tall, with an umbel of white flowers that produce a fruit called a mericarp by botanists, which is a type of schizocarp.

  • Carrots can be eaten in a variety of ways.
  • Only 3% of the β-carotene in raw carrots is released during digestion: this can be improved to 39% by pulping, cooking and adding cooking oil.
  • Alternatively they may be chopped and boiled, fried or steamed, and cooked in soups and stews, as well as baby and pet foods. 
  • A well known dish is carrots julienne. 
  • Grated carrots are used in carrot cakes, as well as carrot puddings, an old English dish thought to have originated in the early 1800s. 
  • The greens are edible as a leaf vegetable, but are rarely eaten by humans. 
  • Together with onion and celery, carrots are one of the primary vegetables used in a mirepoix to make various broths.

  • Carrot cultivars can be grouped into two broad classes, eastern carrots and western carrots, plus novelty carrots. 
  • Eastern carrots were domesticated in Central Asia, probably in modern-day Afghanistan in the 10th century, or possibly earlier. 
    • Specimens of the eastern carrot that survive to the present day are commonly purple or yellow, and often have branched roots.
    • The purple colour common in these carrots comes from anthocyanin pigments.
  • The western carrot emerged in the Netherlands in the 17th century, its orange colour making it popular in those countries as an emblem of the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch independence. 
    • The orange colour results from abundant carotenes in these cultivars. 
    • While orange carrots are the norm in the West, other colours do exist, including white, yellow, red, and purple. These other colours of carrot are raised primarily as novelty crops.
    • Western carrot cultivars are commonly classified by their root shape:
      • Chantenay carrots are shorter than other cultivars, but have greater girth, sometimes growing up to 8 centimetres (3 in) in diameter. They have broad shoulders and taper towards a blunt, rounded tip. They are most commonly diced for use in canned or prepared foods.
      • Danvers carrots have a conical shape, having well-defined shoulders and tapering to a point at the tip. They are somewhat shorter than Imperator cultivars, but more tolerant of heavy soil. Danvers cultivars are often puréed as baby food. They were developed in 1871 in Danvers, Ma.
      • Imperator carrots are the carrots most commonly sold whole in U.S. supermarkets; their roots are longer than other cultivars of carrot, and taper to a point at the tip.
      • Nantes carrots are nearly cylindrical in shape, and are blunt and rounded at both the top and tip. Nantes cultivars are often sweeter than other carrots.
  • Baby Carrots, while any carrot can be harvested before reaching its full size as a more tender "baby" carrot, some fast-maturing cultivars have been bred to produce smaller roots. 
    • The most extreme examples produce round roots about 2.5 centimetres (1 in) in diameter. 
    • These small cultivars are also more tolerant of heavy or stony soil than long-rooted cultivars such as 'Nantes' or 'Imperator'. 
    • The "baby carrots" sold ready-to-eat in supermarkets are, however, often not from a smaller cultivar of carrot, but are simply full-sized carrots that have been sliced and peeled to make carrot sticks of a uniform shape and size.

  • Carrot flowers are pollinated primarily by bees. 
  • Seed growers use honeybees or mason bees for their pollination needs.
  • Carrots are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including Common Swift, Garden Dart, Ghost Moth, Large Yellow Underwing and Setaceous Hebrew Character.
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