Carrots grow and are consumed in large quantities worldwide. They ship and store easily for fresh winter eating.
The first carrots, botanists believe, came from Afghanistan. Roots were purple and branching, and turned to a muddy brown when cooked. The Greeks and Romans, who considered carrots aphrodisiacs, used larger, fleshier roots than their wild relatives, but they were still purple in color.
Conical carrots may have arrived in Asia and Europe by the 12th century. In the 16th century, a pale yellow mutation appeared in Western Europe, and by the mid 18th century, the Dutch had developed several varieties of orange carrots.
Carrots fed to Dutch cows produced rich milk and yellow butter. The carrots were also held to be responsible for Dutchmen's rosy cheeks. Colonial butter makers often colored their butter by adding carrot juice to the churn.
In the 1800s, farmers grew field carrots roots 2 feet long, more than four inches in diameter at the thickest part and weighing up to four pounds. Finer cooks of the era preferred those a foot long and two inches across at the top.
Carrots came to America with the early colonists. The Jamestown Colony planted carrots between tobacco crops. Thomas Jefferson, an avid gardener and horticulturist, grew several colors of carrots at his home in Monticello.
The Irish, whose main diet consisted of potatoes, enjoyed carrots as a change from routine and referred to carrots as "underground honey."
The early English and Americans found uncommon uses for carrots, such as carrot jam and carrot wine. During World War II, the British government encouraged more carrot use to aid with needed food supply. Inventive housewives rose to the occasion making toffee, marmalade, and a nonalcoholic drink called carrolade from crushed carrots and rutabagas. Carrots were put in pies, cakes, tarts, and carrot puddings made by mixing mashed carrots with eggs, cream, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sherry wine.
Carrots are orange in color due to a rich presence of beta carotene, a substance that the human body converts to vitamin A.