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The carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) is a root vegetable, usually orange or white, or red-white blend in color, with a crisp texture when fresh. The edible part of a carrot is a taproot. It is a domesticated form of the wild carrot Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia. It has been bred for its greatly enlarged and more palatable, less woody-textured edible taproot, but is still the same species.
It is a biennial plant which grows a rosette of leaves in the spring and summer, while building up the stout taproot, which stores large amounts of sugars for the plant to flower in the second year. The flowering stem grows to about 1 m tall, with an umbel of white flowers.
Additional recommended knowledge
Carrots can be eaten raw, whole, chopped, grated, or added to salads for color or texture. They are also often chopped and boiled, fried or steamed, and cooked in soups and stews, as well as fine baby foods and select pet foods. A well known dish is carrots julienne. Grated carrots are used in carrot cakes, as well as carrot puddings, an old English dish thought to have originated in the early 1800s. The greens are edible as a leaf vegetable, but are rarely eaten by humans. Together with onion and celery, carrots are one of the primary vegetables used in a mirepoix to make various broths.
Ever since the late 1980s, baby carrots or mini-carrots (carrots that have been peeled and cut into uniform cylinders) have been a popular ready-to-eat snack food available in many supermarkets.
Carrot juice is also widely marketed, especially as a health drink, either stand-alone or blended with other fruits and vegetables.
The carrot gets its characteristic orange colour from β-carotene, which on consumption by humans is metabolised into vitamin A. Massive overconsumption of carrots can cause hypercarotenemia, a condition in which the skin turns orange (although this is superior to overdose effects of vitamin A, which can cause liver damage). Carrots are also rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, and minerals.
Lack of Vitamin A can cause poor vision, including night vision, and vision can be restored by adding Vitamin A back into the diet. An urban legend developed from this that British gunners in World War II were able to shoot down German planes in the dark because of their superior eyesight as a result of consuming carrots. A famous RAF night-fighter ace, John "Cat's Eyes" Cunningham, took his nickname from this. The legend arose during the Battle of Britain and was an attempt to cover up the discovery and use of radar technologies. It reinforced existing German folklore and helped to encourage children to eat the vegetable.
Falcarinol, a seventeen-carbon diyne fatty alcohol was isolated from carrot and red ginseng (Panax ginseng). It was shown to have potent anticancer properties on primary mammary epithelial cells (breast cancer). 
The wild ancestors of the carrot are likely to have come from Afghanistan, which remains the centre of diversity of D. carota, the wild carrot. Selective breeding over the centuries of a naturally-occurring subspecies of the wild carrot, Daucus carota subsp. sativus has produced the familiar garden vegetable.
In early use, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds, not their roots. Some relatives of the carrot are still grown for these, such as parsley, fennel, dill and cumin. The first mention of the root in classical sources is in the 1st century CE. The modern carrot appears to have been introduced to Europe in the 8-10th centuries; Ibn al-Awam, in Andalusia, describes both red and yellow carrots; Simeon Seth also mentions both colours in the 11th century. Orange-coloured carrots appear in the Netherlands in the 17th century.
In addition to wild carrot, these alternative (mostly historical) names are recorded for Daucus carota: Bee's-nest, Bee's-nest plant, Bird's-nest, Bird's-nest plant, Bird's-nest root, Carota, Carotte (French), Carrot, Common carrot, Crow's-nest, Daucon, Dawke, Devil's-plague, Fiddle, Gallicam, Garden carrot, Gelbe Rübe (German), Gingidium, Hill-trot, Laceflower, Mirrot, Möhre (German), Parsnip (misapplied), Queen Anne's lace, Rantipole, Staphylinos, and Zanahoria. 
Carrot cultivars can be grouped into two broad classes, eastern carrots and western carrots. More recently, a number of novelty cultivars have been bred for particular characteristics.
The world's largest carrot was grown in Palmer, Alaska, by John Evans in 1998, weighing 8.614 kg (18.99 pounds).
The city of Holtville, California promotes itself as "Carrot Capital of the World", and holds an annual festival devoted entirely to the carrot.
Eastern carrots were domesticated in Central Asia, probably in modern-day Afghanistan in the 10th century, or possibly earlier. Specimens of the eastern carrot that survive to the present day are commonly purple or yellow, and often have branched roots. The purple colour common in these carrots comes from anthocyanin pigments.
The western carrot emerged in the Netherlands in the 15th or 16th century, its orange colour making it popular in those countries as an emblem of the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch independence. The orange colour results from abundant carotenes in these cultivars. While orange carrots are the norm in the West, other colours do exist, including white, yellow, red, and purple. These other colours of carrot are raised primarily as novelty crops.
The Vegetable Improvement Center at Texas A&M University has developed a purple-skinned, orange-fleshed carrot, the BetaSweet (also known as the Maroon Carrot), with substances to prevent cancer, which has recently entered commercial distribution.
Western carrot cultivars are commonly classified by their root shape:
While any carrot can be harvested before reaching its full size as a more tender "baby" carrot, some fast-maturing cultivars have been bred to produce smaller roots. The most extreme examples produce round roots about 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter. These small cultivars are also more tolerant of heavy or stony soil than long-rooted cultivars such as 'Nantes' or 'Imperator'. The "baby carrots" sold ready-to-eat in supermarkets are, however, often not from a smaller cultivar of carrot, but are simply full-sized carrots that have been sliced and peeled to make carrot sticks of a uniform shape and size.
Carrot flowers are pollinated primarily by bees. Seed growers use honeybees or mason bees for their pollination needs.
Carrots are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including Common Swift, Garden Dart, Ghost Moth, Large Yellow Underwing and Setaceous Hebrew Character.
Food enthusiasts and researchers have developed other varieties of carrots through traditional breeding methods.
One particular variety lacks the usual orange pigment from carotenes, owing its white colour to a recessive gene for tocopherol (Vitamin E). Derived from Daucus carota L. and patented (US patent #6,437,222) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the variety is intended to supplement the dietary intake of Vitamin E.
In 2005, China was the largest producer of carrots and turnips, according to the FAO. China accounted for at least one third of the global output, followed by Russia and the United States.
In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed that the carrot was Britain's third favourite culinary vegetable.
For the purposes of the European Union's "Council Directive 2001/113/EC of 20 December 2001 relating to fruit jams, jellies and marmalades and sweetened chestnut purée intended for human consumption" carrots can be defined as a fruit as well as a vegetable. This is because carrot jam is a Portuguese delicacy.
Wikiversity has bloom time data for Daucus carota on the Bloom Clock
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Carrot". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|