From Academic Kids
Carrots are often eaten raw, whole or shaved into salads for color, and are often cooked in soups and stews. One can also make carrot cake and carrot pudding. The greens are edible as a leaf vegetable, but are rarely eaten. Together with onion and celery, carrots are one of the primary vegetables used in a mirepoix to make various broths.
Beta carotene, a dimer of Vitamin A, is abundant in the carrot and gives this vegetable its characteristic orange color. Furthermore, carrots are rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, and minerals and are an alkaline food.
The wild ancestors of the carrot are likely to have come from Afghanistan, which remains the center of diversity of varieties of D. carota. The familiar wildflower, wild carrot, better known as "Queen Anne's lace", is a relative of the garden carrot; garden carrots that run to seed soon revert to their wild prototype, with a forking carroty-smelling, edible root that quickly becomes too woody and bitter to eat. The Parsnip is a close relative of the carrot.
Carrot cultivars can be broadly grouped into two broad classes: eastern carrots and western carrots.
Eastern carrots were domesticated in Central Asia, probably in modern-day Afghanistan in the 10th century or possibly earlier. Afghanistan remains the center of diversity of D. carota cultivars. Those varieties of eastern carrot that survive to the present day are mostly commonly purple or yellow in color, and often have midly branched roots. The purple color common in these carrots comes from anthocyanin pigments.
The Western carrot emerged in the Netherlands in the 15th or 16th century, its orange color making it popular in those countries an emblem of the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch independence. The orange color results from abundant carotenes in these varieties. While orange carrots are nearly ubiquitous in the West, other colors do exist, including white, yellow, red, and purple. These other colors of carrot are raised primarily as novelty crops.
The Vegetable Improvement Center at Texas A&M University has developed a purple-skinned, orange-fleshed carrot, the BetaSweet, with substances to prevent cancer, which has recently entered commercial distribution.
Western carrot cultivars are commonly classified by their root shape:
- Imperator carrots are the carrots most commonly sold whole in U.S. supermarkets; their roots are longer than other varieties of carrot, and taper to a point at the tip.
- Nantes carrots are nearly cylindrical in shape, and are blunt and rounded at both the top and tip. Nantes varieties are often sweeter than other carrots.
- Danvers carrots have a conical shape, having well-defined shoulders and tapering to a point at the tip. They are somewhat shorter than Imperator varieties, but more tolerant of heavy soil. Danvers varieties are often pureed as baby food.
- Chantenay carrots are shorter than other varieties, but have greater girth, sometimes growing up to 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter. Shapewise, they have broad shoulders and taper towards a blunt, rounded tip. They are most commonly diced for use in canned or prepared foods.
While any carrot can be harvested before reaching its full size as a more tender "baby" carrot, some fast-maturing varieties have been bred to produce smaller roots ordinarily. The most extreme examples produce round roots about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. These small varieties are also more tolerant of heavy or stony soil than long-rooted varieties such as Nantes or Imperator. The "baby carrots" sold ready-to-eat in supermarkets, however, are not from a smaller variety of carrot, but rather are full-sized carrots that have been sliced and peeled to make carrot sticks of a uniform shape and size.
In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed that the carrot was Britain's 3rd favourite culinary vegetable.
In European law, a carrot is a fruit! This because carrot jam is a Portuguese delicacy.