Bugs Bunny is not the only one who loves to eat carrots. Apparently, many people also do, as the carrot is one of the world’s most popular vegetables. Carrots are naturally sweet and crunchy, and have a fruity taste. In the kitchen, they are very versatile. They can be eaten raw as a snack, tossed into salads, pureed into baby food, baked into chips, added to soups and stews, juiced to make a healthy drink; and even baked into a cake.
Although no one is really certain about the carrot’s origins, it is believed that the vegetable was first grown in southwest Asia five thousand years ago. The ancient Greeks and Romans were known to have cultivated carrots, and people from China and Japan were already growing them in the 13th century. When the European settlers travelled to America in the 1600’s, the carrot was one of the first agricultural crops that they planted in their new home.
Aside from its popularity and remarkable history, there are other facts about the carrot that you might find fascinating.
- People in the past cultivated the carrot not as food but as medicine to treat various ailments.
- Although the most common type of carrot being sold today is orange, there are lesser known varieties that are colored white, yellow, red and purple.
- Orange carrots did not exist before the 16th century. During the Netherland’s struggle for independence in the 1500’s, the Dutch created the orange variety in honor of William of Orange, who was a member of the Dutch royal family. Because of its sweeter taste, the orange carrot became more popular that the earlier varieties.
- Carrot seeds are so tiny that it would take approximately 2,500 of them to fill a teaspoon.
- A probable precursor to the well-loved carrot cake of today was the carrot pudding served in banquets during the Middle Ages. Using carrots as a dessert ingredient is not new. In medieval times when sweeteners were hard to come by, people made use of the carrot’s natural sweetness to make their meals more enjoyable.
- Carrots provide many nutritional benefits. Aside from being very low in fat, it is also a very good source of beta-carotene, a substance that the body converts to Vitamin A. As a nutrient, Vitamin A is essential in maintaining healthy eyes and skin. Carrots also contain fiber, which is beneficial to the digestive system and lowers cholesterol levels. The anti-oxidants found in the vegetable can help prevent diseases and cancer.
- While most vegetables are best eaten raw, carrots are unique in the sense that they become more nutritious when they are cooked. This is because cooking helps to break down the tough cellular walls of the vegetable, freeing the nutrients and making them available for the body to absorb. In addition, cooking makes carrot sweeter, making them more delicious to eat.