4.29.2010

examine the small



I was meaning to write a post about the history of carrots but when I started looking into the topic I found the present of carrots to be just as compelling and easier to understand.
I mean, there's a whole MUSEUM dedicated to this very popular vegetable and rightfully so--the nutritional values are through the roof, it's delicious, and can be enjoyed raw or cooked. 

I urge you to check out the Carrot Museum website since they have a wonderful database with the history of this magnificent root. 

Some highlights:


Carrots were originally purple or red, with a thin root. A tale, probably apocryphal, has it that the orange carrot was bred in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century to honour William of Orange. Though the orange carrot does date from the seventeenth century Netherlands, it is unlikely that honouring William of Orange had anything to do with it!
The orange colour did not become popular until the 1500's when Dutch growers developed the vegetable by selective breeding to make it less bitter than the yellow varieties, and then it was adopted it as the Royal vegetable in honour of the House of Orange, the Dutch Royal Family The first carrots were grown for medicinal purpose

Orange Carrots contain beta carotene, with some alpha-carotene, both of which are orange pigments. High in Vitamin A essential for well-being, healthy eyes. These carrots originate from Europe and the Middle East.
Orange Carrot Slice
Yellow carrots contain xanthophylls and lutene, pigments similar to beta carotene, which help develop healthy eyes aid in the fight against macular degeneration and may prevent lung and other cancers and reduce the risk of astherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). These came from the Middle East.
Yellow Carrot slice
Red carrots are tinted by lycopene, (another form of carotene) a pigment also found in tomatoes and watermelon; lycopene is associated with the reduced risk of macular degeneration, serum lipid oxidation, helps prevent heart disease and a wide variety of cancers including prostate cancer. Originally from India and China.
Red Carrot slice
White carrots lack pigment, but may contain other health-promoting substances called phytochemicals, natural bioactive compounds found in plant foods that work with nutrients and dietary fibre to protect against disease. One might say these are the least healthy of carrots. They originate from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan.white carrot slice
Purple carrots (usually orange inside) have even more beta carotene than their orange cousins, and get their pigment from an entirely different class, the anthocyanins, these pigments act as powerful antioxidants, grabbing and holding on to harmful free radicals in the body. Anthocyanins also help prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting and are good anti inflammatory agents. These originate from Turkey, and the Middle and Far East. 
Purple Carrot slice
The Purple Haze variety have a more purple/red and white centre.
Purple Haze Carrot Slice
Black Carrots contain anthocyanins, part of the flavonoid family with antioxidant properties. Flavonoids are currently under investigation as anticancer compounds, as free radical scavengers in living systems, as well as inhibitors of LDL (the bad) cholesterol and the black carrot anthocyanins are especially active.It has anti-bacterial and anti-fungicidal properties and oil made from its seed can help control scalp itchiness and provides essential nutrients for hair growth. The ancient black carrot has been making a comeback, not so much for culinary purposes but as a source of natural food colorants. These originate from Turkey, and the Middle and Far East.

Black Carrot Slice
The carrot is a member of the parsley family which includes about 2,500 species such as dill, caraway, cumin, chervil, coriander, fennel, anise, parsley, parsnip, and celery. It also includes poisonous species such a poison hemlock, water hemlock and fools parsley.

Several hundred varieties of carrot exist with well over 50 different seeds generally available. 

My farmer is going to be asked lots of questions about carrots this Sunday...I hope yours is too! Be sure to check out the awesome Carrot Museum page and learn more about this radical root!

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