The carrot (Daucus Carota subsp. sativus) is a root vegetable, usually orange in colour, though purple, black, red, white, and yellow Cultivars exist. Carrots are a domesticated form of the Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia. The plant probably originated in Persia and was originally cultivated for its leaves and seeds. The most commonly eaten part of the plant is the taproot, although the greens are sometimes eaten as well. The domestic carrot has been selectively bred for its greatly enlarged, more palatable, less woody-textured taproot.
The carrot is a Biennial Plant in the umbellifer family Apiaceae. At first, it grows a rosette of leaves while building up the enlarged taproot. Fast-growing cultivars mature within three months (90 days) of sowing the seed, while slower-maturing cultivars are harvested four months later (120 days). The roots contain high quantities of Alpha- and Beta-carotene, and are a good source of Vitamin K and Vitamin B6, but the belief that eating carrots improves night vision is a myth put forward by the British in World War II to mislead the enemy about their military capabilities.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that world production of carrots and turnips (these plants are combined by the FAO) for the calendar year 2013 was 37.2 million tonnes; almost half (45%) were grown in China. Carrots are widely used in many cuisines, especially in the preparation of salads, and Carrot Salads are a tradition in many regional cuisines.
Both written history and molecular genetic studies indicate that the domestic carrot has a single origin in Central Asia. Its wild ancestors probably originated in Persia (regions of which are now Iran and Afghanistan), which remains the centre of diversity for the wild carrot Daucus carota. A naturally occurring subspecies of the wild carrot was presumably bred selectively over the centuries to reduce bitterness, increase sweetness and minimise the woody core; this process produced the familiar garden vegetable.
When they were first cultivated, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds rather than their roots. Carrot seeds have been found in Switzerland and Southern Germany dating back to 2000–3000 BC. Some close relatives of the carrot are still grown for their leaves and seeds, such as parsley, cilantro, coriander, fennel, anise, dill and cumin. The first mention of the root in classical sources is from the 1st century; the Romans ate a root vegetable called pastinaca, which may have been either the carrot or the closely related Parsnip.
Baby carrots, which were first introduced in 1989, are a smaller variety of the normal carrot and are planted close together in fields to keep the carrots from getting too big. After harvest, the carrots are washed in bleach water to remove dirt and mud. They are then polished to round off their ends, giving them their characteristic shape. When your baby carrots turn white, let them swim in cold water for a few minutes until they become vivid orange again.
The Provitamin A, Beta-Carotene from carrots does not actually help people to see in the dark unless they suffer from a deficiency of vitamin A. This myth was propaganda used by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War to explain why their pilots had improved success during night air battles, but was actually used to disguise advances in radar technology and the use of red lights on instrument panels. Nevertheless, the consumption of carrots was advocated in Britain at the time as part of a Dig for Victory campaign. A radio programme called The Kitchen Front encouraged people to grow, store and use carrots in various novel ways, including making Carrot Jam and Woolton Pie, named after the Lord Woolton, the Minister for Food. The British public during WWII generally believed that eating carrots would help them see better at night and in 1942 there was a 100,000 ton surplus of carrots from the extra production.