A Brief History of the Carrot

Before carrot roots were eaten, wild carrot seeds were probably used as food or flavoring. The earliest historical records of carrot are 4500-year-old wild seeds from archeological sites in Germany and Switzerland.

The first time carrot roots are documented in the historical record are in the 10th century. At that time, carrots were likely cultivated in the region that is now Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. Later carrots quickly spread through the Mediterranean and into Europe. There is evidence of domesticated carrots being grown in Europe between the 12th and 15th centuries. Interestingly, there seemed to be a preference for purple carrots in Persia and Arabia, and a preference for the yellow carrots in northern Europe, although researchers are not sure why.

Carrots probably went through a second major selection event in the 15th and 16th centuries when orange carrots start to appear in the historical record. We find the first pictures of orange carrots in Renaissance paintings from the 1500s. The first written descriptions of orange carrots, the Long Orange and Horn types, did not appear until 1721!

In Europe in the 1500s, carrots started being categorized by different characteristics, such as root shape, root size and time of harvest. Local Growers and seed companies developed lots of different cultivars that were given lots of great names: Horn (1618), Long Orange (1621), Round Yellow (1750), Yellow Belgian (1553), Paris Market (1850), Nantes (1870), Danvers (1871), Imperator (1928). The Imperator variety, from the Asgrow Seed Company, became an important variety in the US.

PICTURE of a Queen Anne's Lace seed head

Old paintings with carrots: http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/history5.html


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