The beautiful bright orange color of carrots makes this vegetable stand out among a sea of green. Their crunch, freshness, and garden appeal make this sweet vegetable worth adding to your shopping cart or garden bed for a variety of reasons! Carrots are root vegetables that grow under the ground, and they are native to Europe and Southwestern Asia. Carrots can come in a variety of sizes ranging from as large as your arm, to as small as your pinky (baby carrots). They come in a variety of colors besides orange, such as purple, white, yellow, and even red! Finally, you are not just subjected to eating them raw, as you can make different carrot recipes like yummy roasted carrots, carrot cake, as well as carrot soup.
10 Carrot Fun Facts
- “One square meter of U.S. carrot production (one crop) is enough to fulfill vitamin A needs for one adult for one year.
- The World’s Longest Carrot recorded in 2016 was 6.245 meters (20 feet, 5.9 inches).
- The World’s Heaviest Carrot recorded in 1998 was 20 lbs. (9.07kg) (single root mass).
- Carrots were first grown as a medicine, not a food.
- Carrots have one of the highest content of beta carotene (vitamin A) of all vegetables.
- The carrot belongs to the family Umbelliferae.
- The crisp texture of carrots is the result of the cell walls being stiffened with the indigestible food fibers cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin.
- The average person will consume 10,866 carrots in a lifetime.
- Carrots are not always orange and can also be found in purple, white, red, or yellow. “
- One medium sized carrot holds 25 calories.
The carrot dates well back into the 10th century in Persia and Asia Minor, where they came in a variety of colors. At that time, they were one of the most important and most utilized root vegetables, as even the white roots were consumed by livestock. Originally, they were known to be purple and white in color, as well as very thin and fragile. It wasn’t until later on that a mutant type of carrot was created resulting in a yellow tinted color, which eventually evolved into the orange we have today. According to the Carrot Museum, “The center of diversity for the carrot is in Central Asia, and the first cultivation of carrot for its storage root is reported to be in the Afghanistan region, approximately 1,100 years ago (Mackevic 1929). Long before carrots were domesticated, wild carrots had become widespread, as seeds were found in Europe dating back nearly 5,000 years ago.”
“It is generally assumed that the eastern, purple-rooted carrot originated in Afghanistan in the region where the Himalayan and Hindu Kush mountains meet, and that it was domesticated in Afghanistan and adjacent regions of Russia, Iran, India, Pakistan, and Anatolia. Purple carrot, together with a yellow variant, spread to the Mediterranean region and western Europe in the 11th–14th centuries, and to China, India, and Japan in the 14th–17th centuries.”
The actual word “carrot” comes from the Greek word Karoton, in which the first three letters “kar” refer to anything with a horn like shape. According to World’s Healthiest Foods, “Carrots belong to the genus and species of plant known as Daucus carota. This genus/species is part of a much broader plant family traditionally known as the Umbelliferae, but more commonly referred to in research as the Apiaceae family. Included alongside of carrots in this plant family are vegetables like parsnips and celery, as well as herbs and spices like caraway, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, and parsley.”
With over 40 millions tons of carrots being produced each year, China is the lead producer of carrots annually taking over 45% of the world’s total. Among the other contributors are Uzbekistan and Russia with their crop production covering 9% of the world’s total. The United States total production accounts for 3.5% of the world’s total with California being the highest producing state.
Carrot Nutrition Facts
Carrots are a wonderful source of fiber, vitamin K, beta-carotene, potassium, and a variety of other antioxidants. The beta-carotene and different antioxidants present in carrots is what makes its color pop so vibrantly. They are made up of roughly 80%+ water, and the rest is carbohydrates. According to Authority Nutrition, “One medium, raw carrot (61 grams) contains 25 calories, with only 4 grams of digestible carbs.” They are also quite high in sugar, with a medium carrot containing almost 5 grams (no wonder they are so addictive). Even though they are higher in sugar, they do rank low on the glycemic index scale, meaning they will not send your blood sugar levels sky high.
They are full of fiber, which is great for optimal gut health, and NCBI reveals that, “The crude fiber in carrot roots consist of 71.7, 13.0, and 15.2% cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, respectively.” Pectin is the name for the main source of fiber found in carrots, and these fibers actually help lower blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion of the starches and sugars all together.
Aside from having high levels of vitamin K and beta carotene, carrots are also loaded with vitamin B6, biotin, and vitamin A, which all results in healthy energy and gut health. Some of the notable antioxidants that are present in the carrots genetic makeup are lutein, which is known for bettering eye health; alpha-carotene, which has been said to convert to vitamin A; and lycopene, which has been noted to decrease your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Carrot Health Benefits
Many of you have heard that if you consume carrots, your eyesight will improve. Is this a fallacy, or is there really truth to this statement?
According to the National Eye Institute,
“Vitamin A helps the eye convert light into a signal that can be transmitted to the brain, allowing people to see under conditions of low light. In addition, the cornea (the clear front of the eye) can literally disappear if the body does not get enough vitamin A.”
With carrots containing high levels of vitamin A, this has been proven as a true statement to some extent. While it will not help you regain sight lost if you are blind, carrots have the ability to help you maintain eye health over the course of your lifetime.
Another important health benefit to note with carrots is the amount of carotenes found in carrots, which has been proven to help protect the body against several types of aggressive cancers. Prostate, colon, and stomach cancer are a few of the types that were noted in a study done by NCBI. Other less intense health benefits to note are carrots’ ability to lower blood cholesterol levels and aid in weight loss. They are also a healthy snack for energy throughout the day.
There are many different varieties of carrots to choose from, but they are not always available at your local grocery store. Some of these carrots you will need to actually grow yourself in your garden, while others you can pick up at the store on your way home from work.
Baby carrots you purchase at the store, are not the same as actual miniature carrots that are grown in the ground. The store bought carrots are typically Imperator carrots, and the “baby carrots” are simply trimmed and shaped versions of these large carrots. The miniature carrots actually grown are dwarfs and they are small ball like carrots when they are full grown.
There are too many great recipes involving carrots, which is why I wanted to include a yummy roasted carrot soup to this food article. Whether it be a carrot cake recipe or a simple roasted carrot side dish, these amazing vegetables will not disappoint!
Roasted Carrot Soup Recipe
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 medium onion, cut into medium dice (to yield about 3/4 cup)
- 1 large rib celery, cut into medium dice (to yield about 1/2 cup)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (from about 1/2-inch piece, peeled)
- 2 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
- Chopped fresh chives or chervil for garnish (optional)
- Heat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
- Put the carrots in a medium baking dish (11×7-inch is a good size, or any dish that will hold the carrots in a single layer without touching) and drizzle them with the olive oil. Toss them to coat well and roast, stirring once halfway through roasting, until they’re tender, blistered, and lightly browned in a few places, about 1 hour.
- Melt the butter in a medium (at least 3-quart) heavy saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it’s translucent and fragrant, 2 to 3 min. Stir in the celery and ginger and cook until the celery softens a bit and the onions start to brown, 4 to 5 min. Add the roasted carrots, chicken broth, salt, pepper, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and cover. Cook at a lively simmer until the carrots are very tender, about 45 min. Turn off the heat and let the liquid cool somewhat (or completely).
- Purée the soup in a blender in batches, never filling the blender more than a third full, and bearing down firmly on the towel-covered lid so the soup doesn’t come flying out. If serving immediately, return the soup to the pot and reheat; garnish with the chives or chervil if you like. Otherwise, refrigerate for up to five days; reheat gently and taste for salt before serving.