Did you know there are Eastern carrots of different color than Western carrots?. They even have a variation in their names to identify them. Eastern carrots are called Daucus carota ssp. sativus var. atrorubens Alef. and the Western carrots are called Daucus carota ssp. sativus var. Sativus.
The Eastern carrots are often called anthocyanin carrots because or their purple/black color, but they can be yellow and red as well. These are traditionally grown in Turkey, Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan and India. India is known for its typically red carrots. The greatest diversity of these carrots can be found in Afghanistan, Russia, Iran and India. The Western carrots are orange, yellow or white. Most likely these carrots derived from the Eastern carrots by selection among hybrids of yellow, white and wild subspecies grown in the Mediterranean. Orange carrots or carotene carrots are relatively recent, since the 16th and 17th century.
Almost five thousand years ago, carrots were firstly cultivated in the Iranian Plateau, what we know today as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Cultivation continued during the Persian Empire. There are speculations that carrots flowers were possibly among the flowers that adorned the famous Babylonian gardens. There is a specific place in present day Iran that is called the Carrot Field or Carrot Plain where carrots used to be in great abundance since centuries, sadly not anymore as the land is used for a variety of crops but the name has remained until today as historic evidence of its origins.
Carrots began to spread in the ancient world through the established commerce routes known as the Silk Road, which linked the regions from east to west and vice versa. The discovery of a purple carrot attracted more interest from international traders. Traders carried purple carrots to the south, to India and west to Baghdad, then to Spain, and then to the rest of Europe by 1000 AD. As carrots and its varieties of colors began to spread around the regions, the yellow roots became the preferred option because they did not release anthocyanin during cooking. Purple and white carrots still grow wild in Afghanistan today where they are used by some tribesmen to produce a strong alcoholic beverage.
In the 16th century it is thought that Dutch growers developed a denser orange carotene carrot from yellow varieties and this deep orange carrot was the progenitor of the modern cultivated carrot we know. These orange carrots were grown to be sweeter, consistent and more practical. Over the ensuing centuries, orange carrots came to dominate and carrots of other colors were only preserved by growers in remote regions of the world. The Celts used to call carrots the Honey underground.
One of the things that surprised me the most while researching about carrots is the medicinal uses that this wild plants were used for. Before the realization of an edible root, people consumed mainly its flowers and seeds. The flowers were used to help women conceive while the seeds were used to terminate an early stage pregnancy. The use of these teas had to be in perfect alignment and timing with the woman's cycle to produce the desired effect. This information was something I surely did not know before!. But don't be frightened!, carrots consumed in moderation do not represent a harm to pregnancy. I debated if I should add this info to the article or not, but honestly, it was some fascinating information and promised myself not to over elaborate on this particular topic. How far away have we got from knowing our bodies and the amazing uses we can find in plants. For the record, I am pro-life and would not recommend anyone robing themselves from the blessing of child bearing.
Several byzantine collections and illustrations describe carrots being used both orally and topically as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and to solve "women's ailments" (menstrual irregularities). From the 16th to 18th centuries, as selective breeding allowed for better yields of "edible carrots," the differences between the domesticated food crop and its wild counterpart grew, and many of these medicinal uses were abandoned. However, during the 20th century, interest in carrots was revived after they were recognized as an inexpensive way to prevent nutritional deficiencies and the development of eyesight problems among soldiers during the World Wars, when food rationing became rampant across Europe.
Carrots may not be a trendy food, but eating them may provide myriad health benefits from lowering cholesterol to preventing memory loss. Crunchy, orange and juicy, these are not only yummy, but are also loaded with many vital nutrients such as beta-carotene, antioxidants, potassium, soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamin K and some vitamins B as well. Carrots are believed to improve eye health, reduce bad cholesterol, and help in reducing weight.
Rich amounts of beta-carotene in carrots help in removing the toxins from the body, and also prevent the accumulation of fat and bile in the liver, thus keeping it healthy. The waste elimination process is also assisted because carrots contain water-soluble fiber.
German researchers have discovered that study participants with mild dementia had a significantly lower amount of vitamin C and beta-carotene than a a control group, leading researchers to conclude that dietary changes to increase these antioxidants could slow memory loss.
The presence of vitamin A, vitamin E, antioxidants and other important vitamins and minerals in carrots help in adding a healthy shine and glow to the face improving blood circulation to the skin and even of the scalp. Improved blood circulation to the scalp not only helps in promoting hair growth but prevents premature greying of the hair. Including carrots in your diet may help in dealing with skin dryness because carrots are loaded with potassium. Therefore, drink carrot juice and keep your skin moist and supple.
Carrots are about 10% carbs, consisting of starch, fiber, and simple sugars. They are extremely low in fat and protein. Pectin is the main form of soluble fiber in carrots. It can lower blood sugar levels by slowing down your digestion of sugar and starch. They can also feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, which may lead to improved health and decreased risk of disease.
Carrots also offer many plant compounds, including carotenoids. These are substances with powerful antioxidant activity that have been linked to improved immune function and reduced risk of heart disease, various degenerative ailments, and certain types of cancer.
Beta carotene, the main carotene in carrots, can be converted into vitamin A in your body. Eating fat with carrots, whether baked, cooked, stir fried, etc., helps absorb 40% more of the beta carotene found in carrots.
Who would have thought that the common carrot that sneaks into any dish as a simple hidden part of added veggies would have such a fascinating background story?. From a ray of marvelous bright colors to having played a role in the economical transaction of the Silk Route to catching the attention of growers with a vision to improve its taste to end in our plate as a humble accessible root vegetable!, What a journey!.
How do you like to eat your carrots?, I love roasted carrots drizzled with olive oil and salt. Did you know that the high fiber content in carrots makes them remain stable no matter which way you cook it?, they don't fall apart, they keep their form. Put them to the test and enjoy!.
Picture of my deliciously slight roasted carrots from my dear friends Harrow's Organic Produce My family loves them so much that I need to slice the carrots so we all get some, otherwise my kids would just feast on them!. I also waaaaant some