Where Did Carrots Originate
Central Asia is the first place where the cultivation of carrots originated. Afghanistan is considered the original domestication and diversity center, from where it spread to Europe, the Mediterranean region, and other parts of Asia.
1. Wild carrots
There are wild carrot seeds, which were found in Africa and West Asia. They can be traced back to the Mesolithic Age (10,000 years ago). The roots are small spindle-shaped, white, slender, aromatic, and spicy. In some countries, they are considered the weeds that grow in the field along with domesticated carrots. Wild carrot seeds are found in Switzerland and southern Germany; they can be traced between 2000 and 3000 BC.
Typically, wild carrots were initially cultivated as medicinal plants, and people used aromatic leaves and seeds instead of edible roots. The ancient Romans used the powder ground from wild carrot seeds to make aphrodisiacs, which were believed to have a particular effect.
Modern research shows that carrot seeds do contain female hormones, but when they are aphrodisiac. They are estimated that they are not enough to make spices.
2. Modern carrots
The modern cultivation of carrots was domesticated in Central Asia about 1,000 years ago. The natural subspecies of wild carrots are selectively bred to reduce bitterness, increase sweetness, and minimize the woody core to become edible carrots. At that time, wild carrots were white or light yellow. The first domesticated and humanly cultivated carrots were purple or yellow.
Domestication types are divided into two subgroups, mainly (var. altorubens) and (var. sativus). (var. altorubens) roots are rich in anthocyanins and a small number of carotenoids. Also, they are purple, pink, or orange-yellow. (var. sativus) roots are rich in carotenoids and are yellow, red, or white.
In the 11th century, Byzantine Jewish scholar Simeon Seth described carrots as red and yellow. Arab merchants and Moors brought in the one found in the northern Mediterranean. Carrots were reported in Spain in the 12th century, Italy in the 13th century, and France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom in the 14th century.
Cultivated carrots began to appear in China in the 14th century. By the 16th and 17th centuries, orange varieties replaced purple varieties due to human preference and choice. They began to be widely cultivated in Europe to form the basis of today’s commercial carrot cultivation.
Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region are considered the second origin centers of modern cultivation of carrots, and many modern commercial cultivars belong to this group. European colonists introduced carrots to the United States in 1609 and soon became a staple food. The British brought carrots to Australia in 1788.
The Development of Modern Carrots
During World War II, the status of carrots was further improved, from animal feed and side dishes to the primary food source. At that time, the British government encouraged people to grow and eat carrots to alleviate food shortages. There is a story that eating carrots is the reason for the success of the Royal Air Force.
After the war, John Cunningham, the British night battle ace pilot, mentioned this, could not help laughing: “As of May 1941, I had shot down 12 German planes at night because my plane was equipped with very secret equipment.
The instrument helped me accurately lock the German machine at night, just like I have a pair of “cat eyes.” To conceal the existence of the instrument, the British Air Force deliberately made up a story, saying that we are more effective only when we eat carrots. “
A study by Johns Hopkins University
A 1998 study by Johns Hopkins University found that taking carrot supplements can reverse the poor vision of patients with vitamin A deficiency. This also supports certain rumors in history that eating carrots cannot improve your vision, but lack of vitamin A intake can cause night blindness.
In the 1960s, carrots became more standardized to meet market demands, with uniform specifications and colors. In the 1970s, people began to pack carrots in plastic bags to make them look more attractive.
In China today, yellow and red carrots are still popular varieties. In Europe and America, with the pursuit of food diversification, especially natural color diversification, purple, light yellow, and red carrots are making a comeback.
Many developed regions are now marketing “Rainbow” carrots, selling different carrots together to attract customers. In today’s Afghanistan, where modern carrots are cultivated, carrots of various colors are natural colorants used in the candy, fruit juice, and food processing industries.
Characteristics of carrots
Carrot is a biennial herb. In the first year, the leaves produce a large amount of sugar and are stored in the root to provide energy for flowering and fruiting in the second year. The taproot is composed of phloem and xylem. High-quality carrots have many phloems, cylindrical or conical, and some varieties are nearly spherical.
The leaves are pinnately split and grow alternately, arranged spirally on the upper part of the root. The stem is 60-200 cm high, with multiple umbels, and the flowers are small and white, sometimes with light green or yellow. The fruits are meristems, and the seeds are in each meristem.
The Popular Types of Carrots
- Purple variety
It comes from rich anthocyanins, but it has a small number of carotenoids. Purple carrot is best eaten raw to get the most benefits, but it can still be steamed, boiled, roasted, and juiced. Also, it has a strong sweet taste and sometimes a spicy taste.
- Yellow variety
It contains many carotenoids with a regular consumption is good for the eyes, including the prevention of cataracts and macular degeneration. Studies have shown that yellow and orange varieties can prevent cardiovascular disease, and are the carrots will be fresh.
- Cosmic purple
Cosmic purple is close to the hue of the earliest cultivated varieties. The anthocyanin content is not as purple, and it has a spicy-sweet taste.
- Round variety
This variety is very popular in France, and it is crispy and sweet. It is suitable for garden planting, and the soil requirements are not strict.
- Red variety
The red variety is very popular in Japan. It is eaten or carved into plum blossoms during the New Year for good luck in the coming year. Likewise, it has a silky texture and unique sweetness.
- White variety
The white variety is a unique carrot variety that has more fiber and mild sweetness.
Carrots are the important vegetables that are used in every meal. They originated from central Asia, where Afghanistan become the original domestication and diversity center. The wild carrots were found in Africa and West Asia and modern carrots were domesticated in Central Asia about 1,000 years ago. Typically, carrots developed from animal feed to side dishes and then to the primary food source.