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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.

Plant Culture
Carrot needs cool climatic conditions and can be sown early in the spring in temperate climates, or in the autumn or winter in sub-tropical areas. It is a biennial plant, one which completes its life cycle in two years. Midsummer plantings, that mature quickly in cool fall weather, produce tender, sweet "baby" carrots that are much prized.

The carrot plant stands 1 or 2 feet tall and forms a cluster of feathery leaves from its base. Its leaves are compound with each leaf comprising of various finely divided leaflets. The eatable portion of the carrot is its root which is usually orange, elongated and pointed at the tip, although some cultivars can be short, round, red, purple, or yellow in color and have a blunt tip.

Carrot flowers are pollinated primarily by bees. Seed growers use honeybees or mason bees for their pollination needs.

 
 
Cultivars
Carrot cultivars can be broadly classified into two major groups, eastern carrots and western carrots. Recently, a number of novelty cultivars have been bred for particular characteristics.
Eastern Carrots: They were domesticated in Central Asia, probably in Afghanistan in the 10th century. Models of the eastern carrot that exist even today are commonly purple or yellow, and often have branched roots.
Western Carrots: These oranged root carrot having multiple taproots (forks) is not a specific cultivar but a byproduct of damage to earlier forks often associated with rocky soil. Western carrots orginated in the 15th or 16th century in Holland. This carrot's orange colour has made it popular in Holland as an emblem of the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch independence. The orange colour results from abundant carotenes in these cultivars. Other colours like white, yellow, red, and purple also exist, which are raised primarily as novelty crops.

Classification of Western Carrots

  • Chantenay carrots: They are shorter in size than other cultivars, but have greater girth, sometimes growing up to 8 centimetres (3
    in) in diameter. These carrots are widely used in canned or prepared foods
  • Danvers carrots: Carrots from this category have a conical shape, having well-defined shoulders and tapering to a point at the tip.
  • They are more tolerant of heavy soil but somewhat shorter than imperator cultivars.
  • Imperator carrots: They are the most selling carrots in U.S. supermarkets. Their roots are longer than other cultivars of carrot, and taper to a point at the tip
  • Nantes carrots: They are somewhat cylindrical in shape and are blunt and rounded at both the top and tip. These carrots are     sweeter than other carrots.
 
Baby Carrots
They are miniature carrots of approximately two inches (5.08 cm) in length, which are harvested before their roots develop or adult carrots chopped into smaller pieces. In North America, they are widely used as snacks, often eaten raw with ranch dressing or another type of dip.

This concept was invented by a California farmer named Mike Yurosek, who wanted to find use for carrots that could not be sold whole due to their flaws and imperfections.

Nutritional Value of Carrot
As its name implies, carrots brims with beta carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A. Raw carrots are an excellent source of Vitamin A and potassium; they contain Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, thiamine, folic acid, and magnesium. Whereas, cooked carrots contain four times the recommended daily intake of Vitamin A in the form of protective beta carotene, besides containing Vitamin B6, copper, folic acid, and magnesium.

It also contains some amount of sodium, fluoride, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, and calcium. The 100g of carrot contains about 43 to 48 calories.

Health Benefits of Carrot
Carrot is the powerhouse of nutrients. They are quite helpful in:

  • Boosting immunity (especially among older people)
  • Reducing photosensitivity (beta-carotene protects the skin from sun damage)
  • Improving symptoms of HIV
  • Easing alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Helping to heal minor wounds and injuries
  • Reducing the risk of heart disease
  • Reducing the risk of high blood pressure
  • Cleansing the liver, and when consumed regularly, can help the liver excrete fats and bile
  • Fighting bronchitis
  • Fighting infection (vitamin A keeps cell membranes healthy, making them stronger against disease-causing microorganisms)
  • Improving muscle, flesh, and skin health
  • Helping fight aneamia
  • Reducing acne
  • Improving eye health, etc.

 

Carrot Recipes
Carrot is widely used for preparing variety of dishes ranging from desserts, sweets to the salads and soups. Carrot Halwa or Gajar ka Halwa (in Hindi) is one of the highest selling dessert in India. This vegetable is also used in preparing the other recipes such as:

 
  • Apple Sandwich
  • Carrot and Raw Papaya Salad
  • Carrot Burfi
  • Carrot Cake
  • Carrot Cake Jam
  • Carrot Halwa / Kheer / Muffins
  • Carrot Murabba
  • Carrot Raita / Soup
  • Carrot Rice / Thayir pachadi
  • Carrots & Chilies Pickle
  • Cocktail Kheer
  • Colourful Parathas
  • Giardiniera
  • Gobhi Shalgam Gajar Aachar
  • Japanese Salad Dressing
  • Microwave Carrot & Green Peas Salad
  • Microwave Goanese Vegetable Curry
  • Minestrone Soup
  • Mixed Vegetable Pickle
  • Mulligatawny Soup  
  • Stuffed Winter Squash
  • Tuna Macaroni Salad
  • Vegetable Fried Rice
  • Vegetable Manchurian
  • Vegetable Pizza
  • Scalloped Carrots
  • Carrot Fritters
  • Samhain Carrots
  • El Bizcocho's Braised Carrots
  • Pan-Roasted Carrots
  • Roasted Carrots
  • Carrots in Beer and Dill
  • Carrot Puff
  • Carrots with a Crunch
  • Carrot Patties
  • Carrots in Orange Sauce
  • Carrots Au Gratin
  • Lemon Glazed Carrots
  • Pineapple Carrots
  • Marinated Carrot Sticks
  • Guess Again Carrots
  • Honey-Glazed Carrots, etc.
 

Other Interesting Facts

  • The world's largest carrot was grown in Palmer, Alaska by John Evans in 1998, weighing 8.6 kg
  • The city of Holtville, California promotes itself as "Carrot Capital of the World", and holds an annual festival devoted entirely to the carrot
  • Several countries have an annual event to celebrate the successful harvest of the carrot. The popular carot festivals are Holtville (California), Bradford (Ontario), Ohakune (New Zealand), Croissy sur Seine (France), Aarau (Switzerland), Schenectady (County NY), Creances (France) and Beypazar? (Turkey).
 
 
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