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When Carrots Were Purple….

Carrots were originally purple

According to Jack E. Staub’s Alluring Lettuces: And Other Seductive Vegetables for Your Garden, there is evidence of carrots being both red and yellow, as described by XI century Jewish Byzantine doctor Simeon Seth and XII century Arab agriculturist Ibn al-‘Awwam. But it looks like purple carrots were originally the most common ones – yellow and whites being the wild variety. In Afghanistan, wild purple and white carrots are still used today by some tribesmen to produce a strong alcoholic beverage….

But, in early use, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds, not their roots. Some “relatives” of the carrot are still used for their leaves and seeds: parsley, fennel, dill, cumin….

Orange carrots are a mutation

Carrots
(from Pixabay)

According to Andrew Dalby’s Food in the Ancient World from A to Z, orange carrots appeared only around the XVII century, in the Netherlands, obtained by Dutch growers who developed a naturally-orange mutant version. Moreover, someone explained this as a tribute to the emblem of the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch independence from Spain: unproven and very unlikely! Truth is that the Dutch developed carrots that were sweeter tasting and more fleshy than the purple ones: more food per plant and better taste….

The “dark” aspect of carrots….

Interestingly enough, medical historian John Riddle writes in his Eve’s Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West that wild carrot seeds are one of the more potent antifertility agents available:

The seeds, harvested in the fall, are a strong contraceptive if taken orally immediately after coitus.

In the late 1980s, research conducted on small animals has proved that seed extracts disrupt the egg implantation process or, if a fertilised egg has implanted for a short period, will cause its release: they would block the production of progesterone and inhibit fetal and ovarian growth.

Who would think that there is so much to learn about carrots, that a “virtual” World Carrot Museum is online?

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