Carrots | CUESA

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Wild carrots originated about 5,000 years ago in what is now Afghanistan. Both Egyptians and Greeks used the wild green, purple, white, yellow and black-rooted plants medicinally. Although originally cultivated in the pre-Christian era, carrots weren’t a significant crop until the 10th century when purple varieties were grown in India, Europe, and the Middle East. Germany and France cultivated a diverse palette of the enlarged taproots in the 13th century, and by the 15th century, they had made their way to both southern Europe and England.

But the history of the orange vegetables that are so familiar to us today began in 16th century Holland during the rule of The House of Orange. No, it’s not a coincidence. Dutch farmers developed orange carrots (a cross of purple and yellow varieties) in an act of patriotism. After this development, Holland became the premier carrot-breeding country. Using both Dutch varieties and the modern wild carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace), the contemporary carrot was developed by a French horticulturist in the 1800s.

If this history lesson isn’t motivation enough, let’s talk about taste. In the fall and winter root vegetables are at their absolute sweetest because cold air and soil temperatures encourage the conversion of starches to sugars. Crops harvested from cooler regions of the state are mostly “clip-tops” because their delicate above-ground parts have frozen off, while carrots grown in more temperate coastal regions might still be connected to their stems and leaves. The culinary directions that you can take these lovely roots are as many as their shades—soup, salad, cake, bread, juice, braises, stews, and more.

In Season

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Recipes with Carrots

Roasted Farmers Market Carrots with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Bruce Cole, Edible San Francisco

Fruit & Vegetable Grilling Tips

Pam Mazzola, Prospect

Ruby Curtido

Kelly McVicker, McVicker Pickles

Creamy Carrot Soup with Berbere Spice Blend and Cashew Cream

Bryant Terry, author of Vegetable Kingdom

Articles about Carrots

January 04, 2008

The Multi-hued Market

Why are some fruits and vegetables green, some orange and others red? The answer is in the pigments.

December 14, 2007

Join the Rooting Section

A walk through the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in December dispels any belief that “there are no fresh vegetables during the winter.” Vendor after vendor offers baskets brimming with ruby red beets, husky carrots and plump turnips.


CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to growing thriving communities through the power and joy of local food. Learn More »