TRIVIAL PURSUITS: What Color Were Carrots Originally?

When you think of a carrot, you probably think of an orange-colored root vegetable. However, carrots were not originally orange.

What color were carrots originally?

Several sources, including the UK’s Carrot Museum (bet you didn’t know about that either), say the carrot dates back to the 10th Century in Persia and Asia and was purple or white.

At the end of the 16th century, Dutch growers started to do some research and testing, to improve the quality of the vegetables. They took mutant strains of purple carrots as well as yellow and white ones and started experimenting. Gradually, after numerous generations, they got to the orange, more sweet-tasting carrot we know today.

The word carrot was first recorded in English in 1530 and comes from karette, from Middle French carrotte, from Latin carota, from Greek karoton “carrot,” probably from Indo-European “ker,”meaning horn or head, and so called for its horn-like shape.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “The theory that carrots are good for the eyesight may have begun in ancient times, but it was ‘much embroidered in the Second World War, when, in order to encourage the consumption of carrots, one of the few foodstuffs not in short supply, the British authorities put it about that pilots of night-fighter aircraft consumed vast quantities to enable them to see in the dark.’” [Ayto, “Diner’s Dictionary”]
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