Carrots are a root vegetable that comes in a number of colors, including purple, black, red, white, and yellow. They’re a tamed version of the wild carrot. The plant was originally cultivated for its leaves and seeds in Persia, and it is believed to have originated there. The taproot is the most widely consumed component of the plant, though the stems and leaves are also consumed.
Carrots are a biennial plant that belongs to the Apiaceae family of umbelliferous plants. It produces a rosette of leaves at first before extending its taproot. Fast-growing cultivars mature in three months (90 days) after seeding, while slower-maturing cultivars take a month longer (120 days). The root is crunchy, juicy, and nutrient-dense. Carrots are high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamin K1, potassium, and alpha and beta carotene.
Carrot seedlings show a distinct demarcation between taproot and stem shortly after germination: the stem is thicker and lacks lateral roots. The seed leaf is situated at the top of the stem. Around 10–15 days after germination, the first true leaf emerges. The following leaves are alternating (one leaf attached to each node), spirally arranged, and pinnately compound, with leaf bases sheathing the stem. The bases of the seed leaves at the taproot are pulled apart as the plant grows. The internodes are not separate, and the stem is compressed only above the ground. The stem narrows and becomes pointed as the seed stalk elongates for flowering, and the stem grows upward to form a highly branched inflorescence up to 60–200 cm (20–80 in) tall.
A pulpy outer cortex (phloem) and an inner core make up the bulk of the taproot (xylem). When compared to the heart, high-quality carrots have a significant proportion of cortex. While there is no such thing as a xylem-free carrot, certain cultivars have tiny, intensely pigmented cores; the taproot will seem to be without a core when the cortex and core colors are identical in strength. Taproots are typically long and conical, but there are also cylindrical and nearly-spherical cultivars.
When the flat meristem switches from producing leaves to an uplifted, conical meristem capable of producing stem elongation and a cluster of flowers, flower production starts. Each umbel in the cluster is a compound umbel, which includes many smaller umbels (umbellets). The first (primary) umbel emerges at the end of the main floral stem; smaller secondary umbels emerge from the main branch, which branch into third, fourth, and even later-flowering umbels.
Up to 50 umbellets can be found in a large primary umbel, each with up to 50 flowers; subsequent umbels have fewer flowers. Specific flowers are tiny and white, with a light green or yellow hue on occasion. Five petals, five stamens, and the whole calyx make up this flower. Before the stigma becomes receptive to pollen, the stamens normally separate and fall off. Before the flower completely opens, the stamens of the brown, male, sterile flowers degenerate and shrivel. The stamens are replaced by petals in the other form of male sterile flower, and these petals do not fall off. On the upper surface of the carpels, there is a nectar-containing disc.
Stamens release pollen before the stigma of the same flower is receptive, as flowers change sex during development. The flowers are arranged in a centripetal pattern, with the oldest flowers on the outside and the youngest flowers in the middle. Flowers open first at the main umbel’s outer lip, then in secondary umbels about a week later, and then in higher-order umbels in subsequent weeks.
Specific umbels normally bloom for 7–10 days, so a plant can be flowering for 30–50 days. Pollinating insects are drawn to the umbels and floral nectaries. The exterior umbellets of an umbel bend inward after fertilization and when seeds form, allowing the umbel shape to change from slightly convex or somewhat smooth to concave, and when cupped, it resembles a bird’s nest.
The resultant fruit is a schizocarp, which is made up of two mericarps, one of which is a true seed. When the mericarps are dry, they are readily removed. Before harvest, premature separation (shattering) is unacceptable since it can result in seed failure. The commissural side of mature seeds facing the ovary septum is flattened. There are five longitudinal ribs on the flattened foot. During milling and washing, the bristly hairs that protrude from certain ribs are normally eliminated by abrasion. Oil ducts and canals can also be found in plants. The size of the seeds ranges, varying from less than 500 to more than 1000 per gram.
Types (Varieties) of Carrot
Carrots are categorized into types based on their shape and size; within each type, there are several varieties and cultivars. Carrots are best grown from seed, and they do not do well transplanted. They thrive in full sun but do best when seeded in the cool weather of spring or early fall. Most carrot types are ready for harvest between 60 and 80 days after sowing. Here are the five types of carrots:
- Danvers carrot
- Nantes carrot
- Imperator carrot
- Chantenay carrot
- Ball or Mini carrot
This is the sort of carrot that most people imagine as they think of carrots. They are long and slim, taper to a point, and are normally orange in colour, but other colors are available. Danvers have longer leaves and taproot than Chantenay carrots, and they are more tolerant of poor soil than other carrot varieties. The name comes from the town of Danvers, Massachusetts, where they were founded. ‘Yellowstone’ and ‘Half Longs’ are two common varieties.
This form is nearly cylindrical in shape, with a circular tip and end. It has scattered leaves and sweet-tasting, near-red flesh with a nice crunch. The word Nantes derives from the French Atlantic coast, which has perfect growing conditions for this sort of carrot. Nantes carrots grow rapidly and mature earlier than other varieties. There are over 40 different types of carrots that fall under this group, according to statistics. They are brittle, high in sugar, and store poorly relative to other varieties. ‘Nelson Hybrid,’ ‘Scarlet Nantes,’ and ‘Sweetness Hybrid’ are some of the cultivars available.
This is the type that most commercial farmers grow, and it is readily available in grocery stores throughout the world. They have a similar appearance to Danvers, but are larger and have a higher sugar content than the other varieties. Imperator carrots have a fast-growing foliage. ‘Japanese Imperial Long,’ ‘Cosmic Red,’ and ‘Sugarsnax 54’ are among the most common varieties.
Chantenay can achieve a length of 6″ to 7″ in most instances. They’re suitable for those who garden in pots or with less-than-ideal soil. Carrots from Chantenay have a rather robust top growth. Harvesting should take place within the timeline stated on the seed packet, as they turn woody and unappealing if done too late in the season. Carrots from Chantenay shop incredibly well. ‘Red-Cored Chantenay,’ ‘Hercules,’ and ‘Carson Hybrid’ are among the most common varieties. Despite the fact that the roots are shorter than those of other cultivars, they have more robust foliage and girth, with broad shoulders tapering to a blunt, rounded tip. They store well, have a pale-colored heart, and are mainly used in the food processing industry.
Ball or Mini Carrot
Varieties that are shaped like radishes or are miniature are included in this list. Because of their short taproot and low space requirements, they excel in containers. The miniature shapes are 3″ to 4″ in length. The radish-shaped varieties look better cross-sectioned so you can see the lovely circular pattern inside, and they’re always served whole with the tops attached. ‘Babette,’ ‘Romeo,’ and ‘Paris Market’ are among the most popular types.
Historical Background (Origin) of Carrot
The domestic carrot has a single root in Central Asia, according to both written history and molecular genetic studies. Its wild ancestors are believed to have arisen in Persia (now Iran and Afghanistan), which is still a hotbed of variety for the wild carrot Daucus carota. Over the years, a naturally occurring subspecies of wild carrot was probably bred selectively to decrease bitterness, maximize flavor, and reduce the woody heart, resulting in the common garden vegetable.
Carrots were first grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds, rather than their roots, when they were first cultivated. Carrot seeds dated back to 2000–3000 BC have been discovered in Switzerland and Southern Germany. Parsley, cilantro, coriander, fennel, anise, dill, and cumin are all close relatives of the carrot and are still cultivated for their leaves and seeds. The root is first mentioned in classical sources in the 1st century AD, when the Romans consumed pastinaca, a root vegetable that may have been either the carrot or the closely related parsnip.
The Eastern Roman Juliana Anicia Codex, a 6th-century AD Constantinopolitan copy of the Greek physician Dioscorides’ 1st-century pharmacopoeia of herbs and medicines, De Materia Medica, portrays and describes the plant. The text says that “the root can be cooked and eaten” and shows three distinct forms of carrots.
The Moors took the plant to Spain in the eighth century. Purple variants originated from West Asia, India, and Europe in the 10th century. Around this time, Afghanistan was the birthplace of the current carrot. Simeon Seth, an 11th-century Jewish scholar, identifies both red and yellow carrots, as does Ibn al-‘Awwam, a 12th-century Arab-Andalusian agriculturist. Carrots were first planted in China in the 14th century, and in Japan in the 18th.
Many people assume that orange carrots were produced in the 17th century by Dutch farmers to honor the Dutch flag and William of Orange. Some researchers contend that there isn’t enough proof to back up these arguments. Around this time, the English antiquary John Aubrey (1626–1697) described modern carrots: “Carrots were first planted in Somersetshire at Beckington. [In 1668], a very old man there recalled their first taking here.” In the 17th century, European explorers brought the carrot to colonial America. Beginning in 2002, purple carrots with an orange interior were sold in British supermarkets.
Nutritional (Composition) Value of Carrot
Carrots have a water content of 86–95 percent, and the edible part contains around 10% carbohydrates. Carrots have a low fat and protein content.
The following are the nutritional values for two small-to-medium raw carrots (100 grams):
- Calories: 41
- Water: 88%
- Protein: 0.9 grams
- Carbohydrates: 9.6 grams
- Sugar: 4.7 grams
- Fiber: 2.8 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
Water and carbohydrates make up the majority of carrots. Starch and sugars including sucrose and glucose make up the carbohydrates. Carrots are also a good source of fiber, with one medium-sized carrot (61 g) containing 2 g. Carrots have a low glycemic index (GI), which determines how easily foods increase blood sugar levels after a meal. Their GI varies from 16 to 60, with raw carrots having the lowest GI, cooked carrots a little higher, and puréed carrots having the highest. Low-glycemic diets have been linked to a number of health effects, which are particularly helpful for diabetics.
In carrots, pectin is the most common form of soluble fiber. By slowing the absorption of sugar and starch, soluble fibers may help to reduce blood sugar levels. They can also feed the healthy bacteria in your stomach, resulting in healthier health and a lower risk of disease. Soluble fibers can block cholesterol from being absorbed from the digestive tract, lowering blood cholesterol levels. Carrots are rich in cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, which are both insoluble fibers. Insoluble fibers will help you prevent constipation and keep your bowel movements normal.
Vitamins and Minerals
Carrots are rich in biotin, potassium, and vitamins A (from beta carotene), K1 (phylloquinone), and B6, among other vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin A: Beta carotene is abundant in carrots, which the body transforms to vitamin A. This nutrient is essential for growth, development, and immune function, as well as for good vision.
- Biotin: A B vitamin formerly known as vitamin H, biotin plays an important role in fat and protein metabolism.
- Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K1 is important for blood coagulation and can promote bone health.
- Potassium: An essential mineral, potassium is important for blood pressure control.
- Vitamin B6: A group of related vitamins, B6 is involved in the conversion of food into energy.
Other plant compounds
Carrots contain a variety of plant chemicals, such as carotenoids. These are antioxidant-rich compounds that have been related to better immune function and a lower risk of a variety of diseases, including heart disease, degenerative diseases, and certain types of cancer. The primary carotene in carrots, beta carotene, can be converted to vitamin A in your body.
The main plant compounds in carrots are:
- Beta carotene: Orange carrots are very high in beta carotene. The absorption is better (up to 6.5-fold) if the carrots are cooked.
- Alpha-carotene: An antioxidant that, like beta carotene, is partly converted into vitamin A in your body.
- Lutein: One of the most common antioxidants in carrots, lutein is predominantly found in yellow and orange carrots and is important for eye health.
- Lycopene: A bright red antioxidant found in many red fruits and vegetables, including red and purple carrots, lycopene may decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease.
- Polyacetylenes: Recent research has identified bioactive compounds in carrots that may help protect against leukemia and other cancers.
- Anthocyanins: These are powerful antioxidants found in dark-colored carrots.
Health Benefits of Carrot
Consumption of carrot has been proven to be associated with the following health benefits:
- Decrease Risk of Cancer
- Lower Blood Cholesterol
- Weight Management
- Improve Eye Health
- Decrease Risk of Cancer
Decrease Risk of Cancer
Carotenoids-rich diets can help protect against a variety of cancers. This covers cancers of the prostate, colon, and stomach. Women with high levels of carotenoids in their blood could have a lower chance of breast cancer.
Lower Blood Cholesterol
High cholesterol levels in the blood are a well-known risk factor for heart disease. Carrot intake has been related to a decrease in cholesterol levels.
Carrots, as a low-calorie food, can make you feel fuller and consume less calories at subsequent meals. As a result, they can be a helpful addition to a successful weight-loss diet.
Improve Eye Health
Night blindness is most prevalent in people who have poor vitamin A levels, which can be rectified by consuming carrots or other foods high in vitamin A or carotenoids. Carotenoids can also lower the chance of macular degeneration as you grow older.