The carrots that lent a great pop of color to the veggie baskets today are no modern innovation. In fact, the original color of the carrot was deep purple- not the orange we all expect. The orange carrot that we know and love is actually the result of a royal whim. Yes, generations ago when Holland was the lead distributor of carrots, King William of Orange was fighting for his nation’s independence. Having never been very fond of the color purple, and in an attempt to increase national pride, the King instructed the royal carrot breeders (apparently that was a pretty important job back then) to breed the purple OUT and increase the orange shades. As the new orange-only carrots were shipped around the world consumers (particularly the Europeans) took quite a fancy to them and orange became the color of choice.
Today, modern growers recognize the increased health benefits and heirloom varieties of carrots including purples, whites, reds, are easier to find. These “Rainbow Carrots” are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. The colored carrots have similar (many would say identical) flavor and texture to the standard orange and can be used in exactly the same way. Of course, if you are looking for something to really make that color stand out, you can always try this recipe for purple carrot cake.
CARROT FUN FACTS FROM www.todayifoundout.com
- It is actually possible to turn your skin a shade of orange by massively over consuming orange carrots.
- Orange carrots get their bright orange color from beta-carotene. Beta-carotene metabolizes in the human gut from bile salts into Vitamin A.
- The origins of the cultivated carrot is rooted in the purple carrot in the region around modern day Afghanistan.
- When cultivation of the garden style orange carrot lapses for a few generations, the carrots revert back to their ancestral carrot types, which are very different from the current garden variety.
- In ancient times, the root part of the carrot plant that we eat today was not typically used. The carrot plant however was highly valued due to the medicinal value of its seeds and leaves. For instance, Mithridates VI, King of Pontius (around 100BC) had a recipe for counteracting certain poisons with the principle ingredient being carrot seeds. It has since been proven that this concoction actually works.
- The Romans believed carrots and their seeds were aphrodisiacs. As such, carrots were a common plant found in Roman gardens. After the fall of Rome however, carrot cultivation in Europe more or less stopped until around the 10th century when Arabs reintroduced them to Europe.
- British gunners in WWII were able to locate and shoot down German planes at night due to the invention of radar, which the Germans knew nothing about. To cover up the invention and extreme effectiveness of radar, the British spread about an urban legend that said that they massively increased the night vision of their pilots by having them consume large amounts of carrots. This lie not only convinced the Germans, but also had a bonus effect of causing many British people to start planting their own vegetable gardens, including planting carrots. This urban legend has persisted even to this day.
- The largest carrot every grown was 19 pounds; grown by John Evans in 1998 in Palmer, Alaska.
- The Vegetable Improvement Center at Texas A&M recently developed a purple-skinned, orange fleshed carrot called the Beta Sweet. This carrot is specialized to include substances that prevent cancer. It also has extremely high beta-carotene content.
- Almost one third of all carrots distributed throughout the world come from China, which is the largest distributor of carrots in the world. Following them on gross production is Russia and then the United States.
- Although the orange carrot was not cultivated before the 16th and 17th centuries, there is a reference in a Byzantine manuscript around 512AD which depicts an orange rooted carrot, suggesting that at least this mutant variety of carrot could be found at this time.