Carrots, which we buy today, are orange. Researchers have confirmed that their orange color appeared approximately during the 15th and 16th centuries. Previously, the roots of this plant were usually purple, yellow, black and red.
The history of this popular root vegetable goes back about 5000 years to Iran and Afghanistan, in Central Asia.
Over the centuries and through important trade routes of Asia, Arabia and Africa, carrot seeds reached Europe and America and are now used all around the world.
During this long time of carrots’ existence, botanists were busy with crossbreeding and producing of new types of carrots and improving their size and flavor. Even in ancient times, the vegetable was already consumed in yellow, red, black, red and purple colors.
In ancient Egypt, for example, purple-colored carrots were very popular, which is confirmed by ancient carrot depictions discovered in pharaoh’s tombs and temples.
The ancient Greeks used carrots mostly as medicine not food but the Romans ate them both raw and cooked along with oil dressings and diverse herbs. In the 1200s, carrots began to be grown in Europe and prescribed for medicinal purposes for different kinds of diseases including syphilis.
Purple and red colors of carrots were popular in France, while yellow and red ones in England. Remarkably, the modern day orange carrot was still unknown until the late 16th century when experiments with yellow carrots began in Netherlands and botanists developed an orange variety of carrot, we use today.
The first carrots were developed in the U.S. in 1871 but their popularity increased after World War I when soldiers returned home with seeds of carrots, a vegetable, which helped them to deal with hunger and was already widely used in European countries.
Red and yellow carrots became popular in China and Japan and in the 17th century first carrots arrived to Brazil and later to Australia.
The world’s largest carrot producer is China, which in 2011, accounted for over 45% of the global output. China was a long way ahead of Russia and the United States who are the second and third highest producers respectively.