We all know and love the crunchy, sweet root veggies called carrots. Closely related to parsley, parsnips, dill, and cumin, they are commonly known for their high content of beta-carotene (aka vitamin A), in fact the nutrient derived its name from the vegetable. They are also full of fiber, biotin, vitamin C, potassium, and other nutrients.
Carrots originated in Afghanistan and were grown by ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks called the carrot a philtron, which translates to “love charm.” They believed the carrot made both men and women more amorous. The name "carrot" comes from the Greek word karoton, whose first three letters (kar) are used to designate anything with a horn-like shape. China, Japan, and India were cultivating carrots by the 13th century. They were one of the first vegetables brought to America by settlers around 1607. The US is currently the third largest producer of carrots behind China and Russia. The longest carrot ever recorded was 17 feet long!
Carrots were originally white or purple, then yellow and red carrots appeared through mutation. These days, the majority of carrots grown are bright orange. The Dutch bred the modern orange carrot by cross-breeding red and yellow carrots as an homage to their royal house, the House of Orange. The part that we eat is called the taproot. Before the discovery of this tasty taproot, they were grown for their leaves and seeds.
Hippocrates recommended women eat carrot seeds to prevent pregnancy. Some modern studies indicate there may be some validity to this and that eating carrot seeds after intercourse may prevent the egg implantation process and block progesterone synthesis. Eating too many carrots can cause a person’s skin to turn yellowish orange, especially on the palms or soles of the feet. This is called carotenemia. It is completely reversible once the consumption of carrots is reduced.
Carrots are a low calorie food that pack a punch of antioxidants. Not only are they good for your eyes, they are also beneficial for cardiovascular health, liver health as well as stroke and cancer prevention. Carrots contain biotin which helps keep nails, skin, and hair at optimal health. They are used by herbalists to prevent infection and cleanse the body. With their crunchy texture, carrots help clean the mouth by scraping off plaque and food particles similar to a toothbrush.
Eat carrots raw with your favorite dip or hummus. Eat cooked carrots as a side dish or throw them into a soup. Toss them into a juicer for a fast punch of nutrients. Whichever way you choose, make sure you get some carrots into your diet!