This week’s featured vegetable is one you won’t find at the grocery store, but once was found in every English garden: the white carrot, Daucus carota. Our white carrots (the Kuttiger variety) are not some new-fangled specimen, but are rather one of the original two types of carrots, known across Asia and Europe for thousands of years. And, the familiar orange carrot isn’t one of the two.
The history of the carrot is long and interesting. There’s too much to print here, but the online World Carrot Museum is an excellent resource. Carrots originated along the ancient silk road through central Asia. They came in two colors: a red/purple variety rich in anthocyanins and a yellow/white variety without the pigments. The Greeks and Romans were big fans of both types, but when the Roman Empire fell, carrots disappeared from Europe. Later, when the trade routes opened back up after the crusades, carrots once again became a European staple food. The French and Germans preferred the dark colors, but the English adopted the white variety as their own. The wildflower Queen Anne’s Lace, found across England and the US, is actually the same species as carrots, but escaped captivity and returned to its more wild state. It wasn’t until a Dutchman successfully crossed the two varieties in the late 1600’s for a festival (orange is Holland’s national color) that we had orange carrots -- and now one rarely sees the other older varieties.
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