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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Simon: Carrot Facts
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Carrot Facts

Prepared by P.W. Simon, Research Geneticist
USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706

History

  • Carrots originated in Afghanistan and possibly northern Iran and Pakistan.
  • Queen Anne's Lace is wild carrot which interpollinates readily with carrot and occurs in disturbed ecological areas (roadsides, vacant lots, etc.) all around the world in temperate regions with adequate moisture.
  • Domestication of carrots took the following path:
    • 900 - 1000 AD: Purple and yellow carrots had been spread from Afghanistan to the eastern Mediterranean.
    • 1300s: Purple and yellow carrots in western Europe and China
    • 1600s: Yellow carrots in Japan
    • 1700s: In addition to purple and yellow, white carrots were reported in Europe with an orange type first reported in The Netherlands and adjoining regions
    • Today: Orange carrots predominate world-wide although some white types persist in western and eastern Europe (for livestock), some red (not orange) in Japan, some yellow and purple in the Mideast, and some purple, yellow, and red from Turkey to India and China

    Boy Holding a Carrot - Francois BoucherFrançois Boucher 1703-1770

    Boy Holding a Carrot 1738
    Pastel on buff paper, Helen Regenstein Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago

Consumption

  • Outside the US and Canada which consume Imperator type (long, thin) carrots, the rest of the world consumes shorter, thicker-rooted conical (Danvers or Chantenay type) and cylindrical (Nantes) carrots.
  • Carrots are worth approximately $300 million per year to US growers, with over half the production in California.

Nutrition

  • Carrots provide 30% of the vitamin A in the US diet.
  • Vitamin A is synthesized in the human metabolism by the breakdown of carotenes, the orange pigments in carrot roots. Vitamin A itself occurs in meat, liver, eggs, milk, and other animal products.
  • Over-consumption of vitamin A can be toxic to humans but over-consumption of carotenes is never toxic since carotene breakdown is well-controlled. Over-consumption of carotenes or carrots can give the skin an orange tone but this is not harmful.
  • Vitamin A deficiency is a significant world problem, especially in the developing world. The magnitude of human suffering from Vitamin A deficiency is comparable to that of protein deficiency and second only to caloric deficiency.
  • One crop of high-carotene carrots (twice the US carotene content) on one square meter of land produces enough carotene to provide an adult with all the vitamin A needed in a year.


Last Modified: 8/4/2004
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