Car­rots

Th e colourf ul • his­tory of •

NZ Lifestyle Block - - PLANTS WITH A PURPOSE -

THE WILD AN­CES­TORS of mod­ern day car­rots were pur­ple and yel­low, not or­ange. They most likely came from the dry, hot lands of Per­sia (mod­ern day Afghanistan and Iran) and are still pop­u­lar there.

Seeds of these Asi­atic/east­ern or an­tho­cyanin car­rots (an­tho­cyanin pig­ments pro­duc­ing the pur­ple colour) were brought west by the Arabs around the 10th cen­tury AD.

The western or carotene car­rot was first de­scribed in Iran and north­ern Ara­bia in the 10th cen­tury and is thought to have de­vel­oped from yel­low mu­tants of the pur­ple car­rot. In Per­sia pur­ple car­rots were pre­ferred for flavour, de­spite stain­ing cook­ing uten­sils. Europe pre­ferred the ‘more re­fined’ yel­low car­rots. Or­ange car­rots first ap­peared in Spain in the 1500s fol­lowed by France, Ger­many, and even­tu­ally Hol­land in the 1600s. There is no clear ev­i­dence for car­rots be­ing used as a root crop be­fore the 10th cen­tury. Un­rav­el­ling this mys­tery

is not helped by clas­si­cal and me­dieval writ­ing which of­ten con­fused car­rots with parsnips, re­fer­ring to them both as pasti­nacea, parsnip’s generic name.

Ex­actly when carotene car­rots first ap­peared is also un­clear. Be­fore them, car­rots and parsnips looked very sim­i­lar, both be­ing thin and woody and rather yel­low (some­times re­ferred to as white).

The name Dau­cus was first added to dis­tin­guish car­rot from parsnip by Galen in the 2nd cen­tury AD, but it was not un­til 1753 that the Swedish botanist, Lin­naeus (in Species Plan­tarum) for­mally sep­a­rated the two species: Dau­cus carota (car­rot) and Pasti­nacea sativa (parsnip).

What is known is that the long, or­ange Dutch cul­ti­var, the fore­bear of the or­ange va­ri­eties abun­dant to­day, was de­vel­oped by Dutch growers in the 16th cen­tury.

Some his­to­ri­ans have sug­gested the or­ange car­rot was bred to hon­our Wil­liam of Or­ange, but it’s more likely it was bred for its su­pe­rior taste, sweet­ness, re­duced woody core and at­trac­tive or­ange colour.

What­ever its ge­n­e­sis, dur­ing the rise and fall of the House of Or­ange the car­rot be­came a bit of a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball. Pa­tri­ots re­volt­ing against the house de­clared that or­ange was “the colour of sedi­tion... car­rots sold with their roots too con­spic­u­ously show­ing were deemed provoca­tive.” How you would sell car­rots with­out their roots show­ing

provoca­tively?

TRUE: the largest car­rot ever grown was a whop­ping 8.6kg, grown by John Evans in Palmer, Alaska. FALSE: British pi­lots did not in­crease their night vi­sion in WW2 by eat­ing mas­sive quan­ti­ties of car­rots – this was a myth spread to cover up the sig­nif­i­cant ad­vance­ments made by the Al­lies in radar tech­nol­ogy. TRUE: car­rots were ex­ten­sively pro­moted for their vi­ta­min A in the United King­dom dur­ing WWII to re­duce use of ra­tioned foods. ‘Dr Car­rot’, car­ry­ing a bag of Vi­ta­min A, pro­moted car­rots for health and re­vived old recipes for cakes, pud­dings, jams and even a car­rot drink called Caro­lade.

“This is a food war. Ev­ery ex­tra row of veg­eta­bles in al­lot­ments saves ship­ping. The battle on the kitchen front can­not be won with­out help from the kitchen gar­den.” TRUE: in the reign of James I (1603-1625) it was high fash­ion for ladies to wear car­rot leaves in their head-dresses. TRUE: mas­sive over-con­sump­tion of car­rots can re­sult in or­ange skin as vi­ta­min A is fat sol­u­ble and will store in the body.

the Ro­mans be­lieved car­rot seeds were aphro­disi­acs. METHOD Whisk gar­lic, gin­ger, lime juice and zest, oil and co­rian­der and mix with shaved car­rots.

Healthy and de­li­cious!

At the end of sum­mer sev­eral lo­cal fam­i­lies gather to share in the crush­ing of the sur­plus ap­ples for juice. We com­bine the event with our end of sum­mer har­vest cel­e­bra­tion, where we bring our pro­duce from or­chards and gar­dens and cook up a huge com­mu­nal feast.

Our lo­cal skilled wood­work­ers have cre­ated a big scale copy of the tra­di­tional juicer you may be fa­mil­iar with. This one (pic­tured at right) is the size of a bar­rel and very strong with rimu sides, stain­less steel bind­ings, a wooden lid, and a gi­ant threaded steel crusher with a long han­dle. Many hands make light work, and the blokes and kids al­ways grav­i­tate to the juicer. The im­pres­sive bath of ap­ples was full of wind­falls, and the pre­vi­ous few days’ har­vest­ing of the last of the tree-ripened ap­ples of sum­mer. These are the big­gest, ripest fruit and high in sugar. The bath of wa­ter washes them and de­ters the wasps for a short while. You want to be juic­ing pretty soon though to pre­vent rot. Bad ap­ples are thrown out from the bath and the good ones trans­ferred to buck­ets.

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