Easily distinguished now by their bright orange colour, it may be surprising to some that when they
were first cultivated, carrots were pretty much every colour except orange. It’s the oldest ancestor can be traced back to Persia, now modern-day Iran and Afghanistan. During the early days, carrots were actually grown more for their leaves and seeds which were used as aromatics when cooking. In fact, other plants that are grown today for their aromatic leaves such as cilantro parsley and fennel are close relatives of the carrot. Their value as flavorful herbs simply persevered more than that of carrots. That is not to say that carrot leaves are completely redundant now, the tender greens of young carrots are still being used as a fresh ingredient all over the world.
Originally carrots came in vibrant purple, red, yellow and white colours and they were a lot thinner than what they look like today. It was selectively bred over time for a bigger, sweeter, more edible root. It wasn’t until the late 16 th century that the orange carrot as we know it was developed by
Dutch growers. There’s some interesting history as to why they chose to cultivate the orange carrot, there is a theory that the colour was an attribute to Dutch prince William III who is more popularly known as William of Orange. Either way, it’s quite believable that the orange carrot came from The Netherlands, after all, no other nation is quite as synonymous with the colour as they are.
There are many varieties of the modern orange carrot, some being longer and thinner like the
carrots of old, some are thick and nearly cylindrical, there are varieties which maintain the typical long conical carrot shape but are thicker overall. There are even those that look like short, fat little fingers while some are as small and round as radishes. With so much physical variety, it’s easy to find
creative and exciting ways of presenting carrots for friends and family. The colours alone can pique the interest of even the most sceptical eater, while the range in taste and texture will easily inspire culinary creativity in anyone. Whether you are choosing to munch on whole carrots as a snack,
including them in a salad or cooking them in some way, this versatile vegetable will appeal to everyone’s taste buds.
It may come as a surprise to many that carrots are actually made up of anywhere from 85 to 95% water. That’s right, carrots are a hydrating vegetable. As for those who say that carrots are all sugar, they wouldn’t be wrong either. For 100 grams of raw carrots, they have almost 10 g of carbohydrates. This however doesn’t mean that carrots will make you fat or that all that sugar is bad for you, everything in moderation can be good. The carbohydrates in carrots are mainly glucose and sucrose, which is an added benefit. The glucose is much easier for your body to absorb giving you
instant energy while the sucrose will be broken down slower providing you with more energy for the long term. That’s why carrots make for great snacks, they provide you with an instant boost as well as some backup energy to tide you over until your next snack or meal. They contain about 41 calories per 100 grams of raw carrots and it’s mostly from all that sugar. It is however a good natural sugar which is a better option than added sugars. Because carrots have a bit of sweetness, they are a great starter vegetable to introduce to picky kids as the taste can be more palatable for them, and once they get accustomed to eating vegetables like carrots, it can become easier to introduce them to a wider range of vegetables with different tastes. They are a convenient way to add nutrition and
energy-boosting properties to a quick snack or light meal with minimal preparation that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Carrots contain both soluble and insoluble forms of fibre. Pectin, the soluble type is linked to lowering blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion of sugars and starch while the insoluble fibres help to reduce the risk of constipation and promote bowel regularity. Research has also shown
a link between soluble fibre and the reduced absorption of cholesterol from the digestive tract. Carrots also are a great source of vitamins and minerals, providing a whole range of them such as vitamins A, K1, B6, biotin and potassium, which is an essential mineral. Together this nutrition cocktail helps to boost the immune system and repair cellular damage. The orange colour in carrots comes from beta carotene, a compound that the body then transforms into vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a critical role in maintaining a clear cornea thereby allowing you to see optimally. While it may be a popular myth that eating carrots will give you X-ray vision or some kind of sci-fi night vision, it is a proven fact that the vitamin A is part of a compound that facilitates our ability to see in low light. So while it won’t give you the night vision of a predator, it will give your eyes to adjust to low light quickly and still maintain some vision. There’s actually a medical condition known as carotenemia, where the skin on the body can start to
turn orange from eating too many carrots, it’s noticeable mostly on the palms and soles of the feet. While I do not condone this level of zealous carrot consumption, I still recommend carrots (in moderation, like all good things) to everyone trying to make a positive addition to their diet and
ultimately to their health. There are no superpowers to be gained from eating carrots, but they are a lot of necessary health benefits. This is why it’s important to give carrots more than just a sideways glance when we see them in a plate in front of us, they have so much to offer.