Wild carrots are thought to date back around 10,000 years, although the carrots of those days were a far cry from the domestic root we think of today.
Carrots actually come in a rainbow of colors including purple, yellow, red and white. Each color with a different flavor and none of them as sweet as the orange carrots we eat.
Ever wonder why something that grows underground would be bright orange? The story is actually quite interesting & the reason carrots are orange today is largely political in nature.
Wild carrots are indigenous to Europe and parts of Asia. They were not originally cultivated for food, but their seeds were thought to have medicinal properties.
Domestic carrots originated in what is today Afghanistan about 5,000 years ago and developed both in nature and through cultivation. The result of this development is the rainbow of colors mentioned above, however orange was strangely absent.
The House of Orange
Where cultivation is concerned the 16th century was a big one for carrots, and it all started in the Netherlands. At that time the color of the Dutch national flag was, you guessed it, orange. Patriotic gardeners took it upon themselves to cultivate an orange carrot variety. In part this was done to honor the House of Orange and in part to create a profitable (and more palatable) strain of a root that grew in well in the climate.
Combining of the various strains actually resulted in a sweeter root, making the orange carrots preferred and thus more commonly found.
Next time you bite into a sweet juicy orange carrot, think about the work involved in creating it. And just think, if the Dutch flag had been blue it could have been a different food altogether.