Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Cultivated carrots are swollen taproots of the species Daucus carota, which arose in the Mediterranean region. There are two main groups of cultivated carrots. The eastern anthocyanin carrot developed in central Asia, and has reddish-purple to purple-black outer layers and a yellow core of conducting vessels. It’s eaten in its home region and can also be found in Spain. The Western carotene carrot appears to be a hybrid among three different groups of ancestors: yellow carrots cultivated in Europe and the Mediterranean since medieval times; white carrots that had been cultivated since classical times; and some wild carrot populations. The familiar orange carrot, the richest vegetable source of the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene, appears to have been developed in Holland in the 17th century. There are also Asian carrot varieties whose roots are red with lycopene, the tomato carotenoid. Carotene carrots have the practical advantage of retaining their oil-soluble pigments in water-based dishes, while anthocyanin carrots bleed their water-soluble colors into soups and stews.