Carrot History: Medicine to Food - early times

Carrots - From Medicine to Food

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Carrot History - A.D. 200 to 1500

Chapters in the history rooms:

 History Part 1 - A Brief Timeline


 History Part 2 - Neolithic to AD 200 - Origins and development


 History Part 3 - AD 200 to 1500 - From Medicine to Food


 History Part 4 - 1500 to 1700 - Evolution and Improvement in the Renaissance


 History Part 5 - 1700 to 1900 - Science & Enlightenment - the modern carrot evolves


 History Part 6 - 1900 to date - The Modern Carrot and Genetic Discovery


 History of Carrot Colour - The road to domestication and the origin of Orange Carrots


 History in WW2 - Takes an in depth look of the role of carrots in World War Two, reviving its popularity


 Illustrations of Carrot in Ancient Manuscripts and Early Printed Books

This separate page in the Carrot museum takes a detailed look at how carrots were illustrated in some of the famous Materia Medica Manuscripts and Early Printed Books, mainly produced in this era of carrot history (ad 200-1500).  Read about some of the significant references in Ancient Herbals here.

NEWS - The World Carrot Museum has the honour of having an article published in the renowned academic journal Chronica Horticulturae.  Co-authored with Jules Janick, the James Troop Distinguished Professor in Horticulture, Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, Purdue University.   The item is called Carrot History and Iconography, a fascinating journey through the Carrot's development from Wild to Domesticated Orange and beyond.  Full copy here (page 13 onwards). Extract here.

Etymology - of the name "Karota" and then "Carrot" is discussed in detail in this page.

The breakdown of the Roman Empire resulted in social disturbances, destruction of the large cities, and a general decline in culture, a period often referred to as the Dark Ages. This is evidenced in the deterioration in the accuracy and content of plant illustrations. Scribes continued to reproduce and embellish previous manuscripts, rather than observing and representing the existing native plants, and a dogmatic scholasticism that stifled original investigation.

The early MiddleImage of Dioscorides Lombardy manuscript 1400 Ages is a murky period in history for the study of vegetables, but a copy of the Codex of Dioskorides dating from 500 to 511 ad is illuminated with pictures of plants. The drawings are fairly accurate and convey the important physical characteristics of the vegetables and herbs shown. Thus it is possible to determine that a carrot shown in folio 312 (below) resembles pretty accurately modern day carrot, and more importantly is the earliest depiction of an orange root! The Codex is medical in nature, dealing with the health and dietary aspects of the plants discussed.

It needs to be stressed that the original Dioscorides manuscript was not illustrated, although it has suggested that some of the illustrations in the 512 codex may have been derived from Krataeus, author of a lost herbal and physician to the King of Pontus, Mithridates VI Eupater, in the 1st century BCE.

Krateuas (Crateuas) 120 B.C. was physician in ordinary to Mithridates VI Eupator, King of Pontus (died 63 B.C.). Krateuas described as well as illustrated plants. Some fragments of his writings have been recognized in the Anicia Codex of Dioscorides in the Vienna State Library to which reference has been made below. Krateuas presumably produced the figures in natural colour and they were continuously copied in many manuscripts and printed herbals from the 6th Century on. Krateuas is mentioned by Pliny.  (the original copy is maintained in the Austrian Library in Vienna, the scan shown below is from the original)
See separate page showing illustrations from ancient manuscripts.

AD 512  The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides: Illustrated by a Byzantine A.D. 512. - First reference to Orange Carrot - Dioskorides Codex Vindobonensis Medicus Greacus. (Austrian facsimiles from 1965, together with commentary - studied at the Royal Botanical Gardens Library, Kew Gardens, England).

Three "orange carrots" are depicted:

Cultivated and wild carrots from the Juliana Anicia Codex of 512

Staphylinos Keras
The cultivated carrot

Staphylinos Agrios
The wild carrot, but appears to be a primitive type of cultivated carrot

The wild carrot (Daucus gingidium).
(also referred to as Cretan carrot)

Above  - The oldest known manuscript of Dioscorides work is the Juliana Anicia Codex (ca. 512 A.D.), housed in the Austrian National Library in Vienna. Listed as Codex Vindobonensis Medicus Graecus 1., it is better known as “Vienna Dioscorides,” the oldest and most valuable work in the history of botany and pharmacology.

Since an original copy of the Dioscorides herbal has never been found, we cannot be certain that it included illustrations. It is certain, however, that, in 512 A.D. or a little later,, a Byzantine artist in Constantinople  illustrated Dioscorides herbal for presentation to Juliana Anicia, the daughter of Emperor Anicius Olybrius. The artist seems to have based his work on illustrations from the Rhizotomicon of Crateuas of Pergamon (1st century B.C.).  This Codex reflects the habit prevailing in the aristocratic classes of ordering products of the hand book type of Literature.  Juliana was the daughter of Flavius Anicius Olitrius, Western Emperor in 472.

Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides  catalogued over 600 medicinal plant species and their possible medical uses, during his first century travels as a roman army doctor and who accurately describes the modern carrot. He compiled an extensive listing of medicinal herbs and their virtues in about 70 A.D.  Originally written in Greek, Dioscorides' herbal was later translated into Latin as De Materia Medica. It remained the standard reference and authority on medicinal plants for over 1500 years.  The third book of Dioscorides the Greek – Roots -  sets out an account of roots, juices, herbs, and seeds — suitable both for common use and for medications. (Modern Translations here)


Byzantine Illustration of Orange Carrot ad 512
Original Script Illustration - Staphylinos Keras

Folio 312 (shown above right) clearly is an orange rooted carrot. The translation of the associated text reads:

"111,52 Daucus carota var, silvestris and D Carota L., Wild and Cultivated Carrot

1. The Wild Carrot: but some call it ceras. It has leaves like those of the carrot but wider and somewhat bitter, an upright stem that is rough and that has an umbel like that of dill on which there are white flowers, and in the middle there is something small and purplish, as if it were nap on woollen cloth; the root is as thick as a finger, a span long, aromatic, and edible when boiled.

2. When drunk or even when applied, its seed sets the menses going, it is suitable for those that pass water painfully and with difficulty, for those with edemata, for pleurisy in potions, and for bites and strokes of wild animals. They say that reptiles do not harm people who have taken it in advance; it also aids conception. As for the root, it, too is diuretic, aphrodisiac, and expels embryos/fetuses when used as a pessary. The leaves ground and applied with honey, clear cancerous sores completely.

The cultivated carrot, which is more edible, is suitable for the same purposes, but it acts more weakly."

Dioscorides also talked about Water Plantain which can be "used to stop colic and dysentery when drunk with an equal amount of Daucus."

A second folio (09 88) refers to Gingidion (also referred to as the Cretan Carrot)

" 111, 72 Athamanta cretensis L.,Daucos - Gingidion

1. Daucos: there is one kind called Cretan, having leaves like those of fennel but smaller and finer, a stem that is one span tall, an umbel like that of coriander, and white flowers; they contain seed that is white, rough, pungent when chewed, and fragrant; the root is a finger thick and one span long.  (span = distance from tip of thumb to tip of small finger when hand is outstretched, about 5-7inches) It grows in rocky and sunny places. And there is another kind that nearly resembles wild celery; it is spicy and fragrant, and it tastes pungent and hot. The Cretan is superior.

2. The third kind resembles coriander in foliage and it has white flowers. Its top and fruit are similar to the dill's, the umbel is like that of carrot, it is full longish seed like cumin and it is pungent.

The seed of all of them warms; when drunk, it draws out the menstrual period, embryos and fetuses, and urine, it relieves colic, and it allays chronic coughs; it comes to the aid of people bitten by poisonous spiders when drunk with wine, and it disperses swellings when plastered on. All of them are used for their seed, but the Cretan is also used for its root, which is mostly drunk with wine as an antidote to poisonous animals."

Byzantine Illustration of Daucos

It should also be noted that Parsnip is referenced as a separate plant (Pastinaca Sativus) indicating a clear distinction with carrot.

Throughout the Medieval writings, carrots are confused with parsnips. When Linnaeus created scientific names, he called carrots Daucus carota parsnips Pastinaca sativa, so the two are clearly different. Before Linnaeus, however, Pastinaca sativa was used for both plants.

Fuchs in 1542 described red and yellow garden carrots and wild carrots, but names them all Pastinaca (Meyer Trueblood and Heller1999). Gerard (1633) uses the English name carrot, but calls it Pastinaca in Latin: Pastinaca sativa var. tenuifolia, the yellow carrot and Pastinaca sativa atro-rubens, the red carrot. Gerard distinguishes parsnips from carrots and calling the parsnip Pastinaca latifolia sativa and P. latifolia sylvestris.

Gerard notes the name similarity and is dissatisfied with it. He gives daucus as a name for carrot in Galen, but notes that many Roman writers called it pastinaca or other names. I don't think the plants were confused particularly, but since we have in many cases only the written word, if the Medieval writer called his plants "pastinaca", it is impossible to know if they were carrots or parsnips.

It is interesting when one reads the what the Herbalists of the 15th century say about carrot and how so many refer to carrot being used for animal bites,  urination problems, conception aids and methods of expelling embryos and after birth.  Clearly using this source from 1000 years earlier.  Read about the Herbalists and how they recommended carrots here.

Another translation states - Dioscorides wrote "Ye root ye thickness of a finger, a span long, sweet-smelling, edible being sodden [boiled]. Of this ye seed being drank...and it is good for ye [painful discharge of urine] in potions, and for ye bitings and strokes of venomous beasts; they say also, that they which take it before hand shall take no wrong of wilde beasts. It co-operates also to conception, and it also being [diuretic], both provoketh [poison], and being applied; but the leaves being beaten small with honey, and laid on, doth cleanse rapidly spreading destructive ulceration of soft tissues." Source: Mitch, 1998.

He recommended the seeds of Wild Carrot for the relief of urinary retention, to stimulate menstruation and to "wake up the genital virtue." 

Anthimus c450-525 ad  was a 6th century Byzantine Greek doctor  who, while serving as an ambassador to the King of the Franks, wrote a cookery treatise that reflects both Byzantine and Frankish tastes. Anthimus is known in the food history world as author of "De observatione ciborum" ("Observations about food"), written either shortly after 511 AD, or sometime around 526 AD. It was probably the last cookbook to come out of the Roman Empire.

Anthimus lists, what was perceived at the time, as healthy and unhealthy eating habits and food and underlines the dependence of health on good food and nutrition. Anthimus mentions turnips in one paragraph, noting that they can be boiled in oil and salt or cooked with meat or bacon and flavoured with vinegar. In the next paragraph, he discusses pastinacea which could mean anything in the carrot/parsnip family, and notes that they can be eaten boiled or parboiled and then fried and are good mixed into other dishes.

The work is De obseruatione ciborum (On the observance of foods) and the definitive current edition and translation is by Mark Grant. • Grant, Mark ed. 1996. Anthimus: De obseruatione ciborium -- On the observance of foods. Prospect Books, Totnes. ISBN 0907325-750

Isidore of Seville (in Latin : Isidorus Hispalensis, probably born in Cartagena , . C 556 - Seville , April 4 of 636 ) was a hispanogodo

Bishop Isadore of Saville (around ad 556 to 636), an ecclesiastical Catholic scholar and polymath, wrote Etymologiae (Latin for "The Etymologies"), also known as the Origines ("Origins"). The Chapter named “De Rebus Rusticus - Country Matters covers all agricultural matters. Chapter XVII 10,6 talks about the name carrot and says “Carrot shared the name of parsnip (pastinaca) because it is rooted in a fundamental food for man (pastus). It has a pleasant smell and delectable delicacy.

Etymologiae was the most used textbook throughout the Middle Ages. It was so popular that it was read in place of many of the original classical texts that it summarized, so these ceased to be copied and were lost. The work was drawn from classical texts including Cato via Columella, Pliny, Servius, Solinus, Rutilius Palladius & Varro.

Paulus Aegineta Medical Compendium

Paul of Aegina or Paulus Aegineta (Aegina, 625–690) was a 7th-century Byzantine Greek physician best known for writing the medical encyclopedia Medical Compendium in Seven Books. For many years in the Byzantine Empire, this work contained the sum of all Western medical and surgical knowledge possessed by the Greeks, Romans and Arabina and was unrivalled in its accuracy and completeness.

Carrot (domestic and wild) was generally considered an aromatic was also included in potions and remedies for inflation of the stomach, the bladder, jaundice, the easing of menstruation and cancer.

On herbs - The garden and wild carrot, and the caraway, have roots which are less nutritious than turnip, but hot, manifestly aromatic, and diuretic. But when used too freely, they supply bad juices, and become of difficult digestion like other roots. Some call the wild carrot daucus ; it is evidently more diuretic than the other.

The Staphylinus was unquestionably the Carrot. Apicius, among other methods of dressing it, directs to do it with salt, pure oil, and vinegar.

On Hiccough - it is well known, that many people hickup when the food spoils on the stomach. Many also hickup from rigors. We will find an emetic a proper remedy in cases which are occasioned by fulness or pungency, and warmth in those from cold ; and, when the complaint is occasioned by a plethora of humours, there is need of strong evacuation. This may be accomplished by sneezing, but when emptiness is the cause, sneezing will not cure it ; for in such cases, we must give rue with wine, or nitre in honied water, orhartwort, or carrot, or cumin, or ginger, or calamint, or Celtic nard.

For Glaucoma and suffusion - To the eyes we must make applications at first simple, such as honey and oil, with the juice of fennel, and afterwards compound, such as this : Of sagapene, dr. ii ; of cyrenaic juice, of white hellebore, of each, dr. vi. ; triturate with eight heminse of honey. We, says Oribasius, use the following medicine : Of the juice of wild carrots, of germander, of cresses, of each, equal parts; triturate.

The Codex Neapolitanus is one of the oldest manuscripts in the tradition of Materia Medica, the leading pharmacological work of Greco-Roman times, written by the Greek surgeon Pedanius Dioscorides in the 1st century A.D. The eminent role of this codex is not least due to the great number of botanical illustrations and descriptions of plants in all their details.
The primary significance of Dioscorides as a major authority in his field is evidenced by the wide spread use of his work over the centuries. In the 6th century it was translated into Latin and from the 9th century, it was transliterated and edited also in Arabic, Syrian and Hebrew. Materia Medica thus remained the pharmacological reference work and was read not only by physicians and botanists but also by interested lay botanists.
The Neapolitan codex can be dated to the early 7th century, although research still ignores whether it was made in Byzantium or in Italy. G. Cavallo suggests that the miniatures in the manuscript were obviously a product of the activity of Greek artists in Italy. The 403 miniatures depict different plants and bear unique testimony to the unmatched virtuosity of the illuminators of this period.

There are many surviving manuscripts of De Materia Medica after Codex Vindobonensis, an important example being the seventh-century Greek alphabetic Codex Neapolitanus, in the possession of a Neapolitan monastery for many years, and then presented to Emperor Charles VI in 1717. It was taken to Vienna and subsequently to the Bibliotheca Nazionale in Naples. Some of the drawings in Codex Neapolitanus are thought to be from the same source as Codex Vindobonensis, but are smaller and grouped together on fewer pages.

Codex Neapolitanus (7thC)
CL1 - Left Kypeos (cultivated carrot) - right Agrios (wild carrot)
consulted at Kew Gardens Library September 2011

The 8th century saw the beginning of a period of rapid Arab expansion. The Arabs were great ones for writing about everything they were finding in, and bringing home from, invaded regions, including the fat, juicy carrots of Afghanistan. Once Arabs discovered the improved carrots, they spread them quickly to trade partners and conquered lands. The crunchy root sped across North Africa and up into Moor-controlled Spain. By the time Ibn al-Awam was writing about carrots in the 12th century, from his home in Andalusia, he not only had several varieties available to him, he had older works to quote from.

After the fall of Rome, gardens and vegetables are rarely mentioned again until 795 ad, when King Charlemagne enacted a charter or capitulary entitled "Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii" or "Capitulare de villis" (Of imperial lands and imperial courts), in chapter 70 of which appears a list of 90 plants and fruit trees recommended to cultivate in the gardens of the Frankish Empire, which covered western and central Europe. Carrots (carvitas) are found in the list of vegetables recommended for cultivation by Charlemagne.  Note - Pastinacas (Parsnip) were also shown as a separate plant.

Charlemagne's edict tells his subjects what he expects of them: King Charlemagne Capitulare de villis ad 795 carrot

"We desire that they have in the garden all the herbs namely, the lily, roses, fenugreek, costmary, sage, rue, southernwood, cucumbers, pole beans, cumin, rosemary, caraway, chick pea, squill, iris, arum, anise, coloquinth, chicory, animi, laserwort, lettuce, black cumin, garden rocket, nasturtium, burdock, pennyroyal, alexander, parsley, celery, lovage, sabine tree, dill, fennel, endive, dittany, black mustard, savory, curly mint, water mint, horse mint, tansy, catnip, feverfew, poppy, beet sugar, marshmallows, high mallows, carrots, parsnips, oraches, amaranths, kohlrabis, cabbages, onions, chives, leeks, radishes, shallots, garlics, madder, artichokes or fulling thistles, big beans, field peas, coriander, chervil, capper spurge, clary."

(Citation: Helen Morganthau Fox, Gardening with Herbs for Flavor and Fragrance (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1933, reprinted Dover Publications, Inc., 1970), p. 45.)  

Charlemagne welcomed new fruits and vegetables into his royal gardens and set aside an area for growing carrots, though their flavour did not win them a great deal of acceptance there either. To lessen their appeal, the purple carrots turned brown when cooked. Worse still, any liquid and foods cooked in the same pot also turned brown.

Inventories of gardens from the time of Charlemagne contain several names of vegetables but no direct mention of carrot. The Capitulare de villis imperialibus of Charlemagne was a kind of instruction book describing the plants that he wanted grown in gardens. It mentions carvitas and pastinaca. It is assumed that these names mean carrot and parsnip respectively.  Carvitas is thought to be a faulty copy of the name caroita which comes from carota. Hence it is clear that the Greek-Roman names carota (or carvita) and pastinaca were adopted, and probably the plants Romans indicated by these names also.  There is no proof that they were actually grown, and if they were, it is still not clear which plants they really were.

9th Century

Alcuin (ca. 732-804), who was an Anglo-Latin scholar asked - "What is an herb?" According to legend, he posed this question to his pupil Charlemagne, the 8th century ruler of France. The King's reply was, "The friend of physicians and the praise of cooks." That an herb should be called "the friend of physicians" might seem odd to twenty first century readers, but Charlemagne's answer was certainly true of his time.

The medicinal properties of the carrot were already well established. You can find more about the wonderful health properties on the nutrition pages.

At this time a wild red variety  existed in Syria. This variety would have travelled throughout the Mediterranean basin and would have been carried by the Arabs in Andalusia, which encompassed the Arab-Andalusian civilization between the 8th and 13th centuries. There is a curious legend on this subject which claims that the white carrot evolved into the red carrot at the time of persecutions of the first Christians. It is said that in a town of Gaulle, a Christian maidservant, Marie, was stabbed by a pagan. Her blood was spread on the white carrots which she was peeling. The legend says that “since that time the carrots are red”.

Walafrid Strabo (808-849 ad) wrote a poem in ad 840 - "Hortulus". This German monk in the 9th century, was the Abbot of Reichenau, an island monastery located on Lake Constance in Switzerland.  Hortulus, which translates to "The Little Garden", describes Strabo's personal monastery garden. The poem contains descriptions of the many herbs that were grown in his garden along with their medicinal uses. Here's the carrot reference -

XXIII Daucus Carota L "Est et quartum genus in eadem similitudine Pastinacae, quam nostri Gallicani vocant, Graeco Daucon: cuius genera etiam quatuor fecere." (similar in likeness to pastinaca from France and Greece)

Translation - 23 Daucus Carota L. [i.e., Linnaei] "There is also a fourth kind/genus with the same similarity to the pastinaca  - (very roughly, a root vegetable that can mean many things in Latin), which our own French people call by the Greek "daucon": of which there are also four kinds/genera."

Ninth and tenth century Viking  finds in Yorvik (modern York, UK) show carrots, parsnips and turnips.
(source -

Unfortunately, due to a lack of recipes recorded in Viking times, there are few truly authentic Viking recipes. However, scientists have been able to recreate diets based on information received from examining the remains of corpses found at archaeological digs and knowledge of the types of food available in each region.

Vegetables and fruits were much more wild than any of our modern varieties. Carrots would have been added to the daily skause (pot of stew), but they were not orange; white carrots were the only ones available

The Vikings used carrots in several recipes including Honey Glazed Root Vegetables and Chicken Stew with beer (full recipes here).

Source Vikingars Gästabud (The Viking Feast), also Viking Food lady here.

In 10th Century  carrot consumption is traced to the hill people of Afghanistan (ad 900), who were sun-worshippers and believed that eating orange or yellow coloured foods instilled a sense of righteousness. People also ate yellow and purple conical tap root varieties of carrots in Pakistan. At this time Arab merchants traversing the trade routes of Africa, Arabia, and Asia brought seeds of this purple carrot back home with them. From their villages and cities along the coast of North Africa, Moors brought the carrot up into Spain and to the rest of Europe, probably from Afghanistan. Yellow and purple carrots are first recorded in Asia Minor and the Byzantine Empire (now Turkey) in the 10th century. This was a mutation which effectively removed the anthocyanins which gives the red/purple colour.

The oldest surviving medical text book in England is also the oldest herbal, for of course herbs were medicine in the middle ages. This is the Leech Book of Bald,(læce in Old English means healer) compiled in Ælfred's time or very shortly thereafter by a monk named Bald, and penned, in its surviving copy, between 924 and 946 by a scribe (almost certainly also a monk) named Cild and possibly under the influence of Alfred the Great's educational reforms. This work included many references to carrot and remedies for consumption, thick eyelids, smallpox and hiccups. It was also an ingredient of a quieting drink. Read more in the herbalists page here.

In around 950, Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq's produced a cookbook, the most comprehensive work of its kind. This traditional cookbook with more than 600 recipes using medieval ingredients and dishes from the luxurious cuisine of medieval Islam is also a rare guide to the contemporary culinary culture. He described the carrots used in his recipes thus:

Jazar - carrots. Of the cultivated varieties

1. Red Carrot (jazar ahmar) literally 'red', described as juicy, tender, and delicious. Poets compare it to carnelian, rubies, flames of fire, and coral reeds.

2. Yellow Carrot (jazar asfar), thicker and denser in texture than the red.

3. White Carrot (jazar abyad) similar to parsnips, aromatic, and deliciously sharp in taste. It is also described as having a pleasant crunch.

For more details on the cookbook and the 10th century recipes using carrots, there is a separate page in the Carrot museum. Here.

The cultivated carrot is believed to originate from Afghanistan before the 900s, as this area is described as the primary centre of greatest carrot diversity (Mackevic 1929), Turkey being proposed as a secondary centre of origin (Banga 1963). The first cultivated carrots exhibited purple or yellow roots. Carrot cultivation spread to Spain in the 1100s via the Middle East and North Africa. In Europe, genetic improvement led to a wide variety of cultivars. White and orange-coloured carrots were first described in Western Europe in the early 1600s (Banga 1963). Concomitantly, the Asiatic carrot was developed from the Afghan type and a red type appeared in China and India around the 1700s (Laufer 1919; Shinohara 1984). According to this history, it makes sense to envisage that colour should be considered as a structural factor in carrot germplasm.

The Old English Herbarium (late10th C) takes its material from Pliny and other Latin compilations and cites uses for carrot: 

"The pastinaca silvatica plant which is wild carrot or parsnip - For difficult childbirth and  For womens cleansing -

82. Wild Carrot of Parsnip (Daucus cartoa L, or Pastinaca sativa L, pastinaca sivatica, Feldmoru.

This plant which is called pastinace silvatice or wild carrots, grows in sandy soils and hills.

1. If a woman has difficulty in giving birth, thae the plant we call pasticanna sivatica (willd carrot or parsnip), simmer it in water, and give it so that she can bathe herself with it. She will be healed.

2. For a woman's cleansing, take the same plant, pastinaca, simmer it in water, and when it is soft, mix it well and give it to drink. She will be cleansed."  read more here.

This 10th century image shows Pastinaca Silvatica, which herbalists also knew as wild carrot or parsnip. (900-1000 a.d.)10th century image of carrot - pastinaca silvatica pseudo apulieus

It taken from a version of the Pseudo-Apuleius the author of a Herbarium or De herbarum virtutibus, also referred as Herbarium Apuleii Platonici; which is a medical herbal of the 5th century, A.D. (see above)

A 10th century manuscript of the work is in the Musee Meermanno Westreenianum, Holland.

Den Haag, MMW, 10 D 7 (left) is an image from the 10th century version of the Pseudo Apulieus.


It is known that purple or red and yellow carrots were cultivated in Iran and Arabia in the 10th century and in Syria in the 11th. By the 12th century carrots were reported in Spain, followed by Italy in the 13th, France, Germany and Holland by the 14th century.  English references occur in the 15th century.

The word for Carrot appears in the Anglo-Saxon period in England (post Roman to 1066) e.g. The Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, by John R. Clark Hall 1916 dictionary:

Carrot was known in Britain in the Anglo Saxon period (early C5 to 1066) and several academic Anglo-Saxon dictionaries cite the following terms as referring to carrot:

ease 'caucale,' an umbelliferous plant, wild carrot? . more f. carrot, parsnip, ['more']

moru f. parsnip, carrot (= more).

næster 'caucale,' an umbelliferous plant? wild carrot? 

wealh-moru, -more (a^1) f., -mora m. carrot, parsnip.

((source: - reference: Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, by John R. Clark Hall 1916 dictionary)

11th Century

1025 - The Canon of medicine of Avicenna (980-1037) - The famous medical work of the Medieval Islamic doctor Avicenna -The Canon of Medicine - is an encyclopaedia of medicine in five books compiled by Persian philosopher Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) and completed in 1025. His most famous works are The Book of Healing, a philosophical and scientific encyclopedia, and The Canon of Medicine, a medical encyclopedia which became a standard medical text at many medieval universities and remained in use as late as 1650.

It presents a clear and organized summary of all the medical knowledge of the time. It is a "magisterial exposition of Galenic medicine", although while Avicenna accepted Galen's evidence on anatomical matters he preferred Aristotle's theories where they differed from Galen. It served as a more concise reference in contrast to Galen's twenty volumes of medical corpus. As part of the Arabic translation project Ibn-Sina drew on various sources in the writing of his Canon an important one being the extensive pathology text from Chinese medicine called the Zhubing Yuanhuo Lun written in about 610 by Chao Yuan-fang. Ibn-Sina also drew on the early Chinese pulse diagnosis classic text the Maijing by Wang Shu-hu which was written in circa 310. Avicenna was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age. He has been described as the father of early modern medicine.

Originally written in the Arabic language, the book was later translated into a number of other languages, including Persian, Latin, Chinese, Hebrew, German, French, and English with many commentaries. The Canon is considered one of the most famous books in the history of medicine. Here is the recommended use of carrots:

"Part 111, the Preservation of Health (On Nutrition - Thesis 1, The Regimen of Infancy )

704. If the milk (of a woman) is scanty, one should ascertain the cause : e.g. is it an abnormal temperament affecting the whole body, or the breast itself? To determine which it is one employs the indications given in preceding chapters. If palpation of the breasts shows them to be unduly hot, the diet should consist of such things as barley water, spinach, and the like. If there are signs of coldness of temperament in the breasts, and of obstructions, or inadequate attractive power, the diet should include attenuated aliments tending to a warm nature ; and cupping instruments should be applied beneath the breasts, taking care not to press much on the breast. Carrot seed is also beneficial, and the carrot itself is also very good for such a condition.

705. List of Galactogogues (is a substance that promotes lactation in humans and other animals) (1) One ounce of butter from cow's milk placed into a vessel of good wine ; taken as a drink. (2) Sesame ground up in a fine mill and mixed with wine ; taken as a drink. (3) An emplastrum or liniment applied to the breasts, prepared with the faex of balsam of nard and asses' milk and oil. (4) Take one ounce of the interior parts of brinjal (egg-plant;, this being dissolved in wine, by stirring ; it is taken as a drink, (5) The following is a powerful medicament : dill seed, three ounces ; seed of blue melilot (type of clover)  (or, lot tree - pyrus aria), of leek, one ounce of each ; clover seed and fennel seed, two ounces of each ; mix the whole into a drink with fennel juice, honey and butter. (6) broom leaves taken in dark-coloured wine or in a ptisan ; sweet gith (melanthium), and the root and seed of carrots soaked in warm water. Aegineta warns that such remedies are weakening to the body). (7) Massaging the breasts frequently with bland hands renders the secretion of milk plentiful." (Full text available here) pdf from

In About 1086, Ibn al Bassal an Islamic Botanist and scholar who lived in Seville, Spain from wrote a lengthy treatise on agronomy (Diwan al-filaha) “Libro de Agricultura” - The Book on Agriculture, a treatise on agriculture. Vilmorin 1856 Dutch Horn carrot

It is full of information on the cultivation of plants and trees, pharmacological data and many items on botany. Very little is known about his life. However, judging from the meaning of his Arabic name Ibn Bassal (i.e. the Son of the Onion Grower), he seems to be a learned agriculturalist from a farming family.

The book, though not a cookbook per se, contains information about the different kinds of foodstuff and how to produce them and preserve them, in addition to the agricultural methods involved in cultivation, irrigation, pest control and land tilling in Andalusia in the 11th century. The treatise by Ibn Bassal is singular in that it contains no reference to earlier agronomists; it appears to be based exclusively on the personal experiences of the author, who is revealed as the most original and objective of all the Hispano-Arabic specialists.

The treatise was lost for many years until a mediaeval Castilian translation of it was discovered by Prof. Millis in the Cathedral Library of Toledo and extracts of it were published by him in 1942.

Bassal’s ancient text deals with all the fundamentals of horticulture and propagation. In Chapter XIII he deals with Garden plants - Rapes, carrots, radishes, garlic, onions, leeks, parsnip, capsicum (pimento), madder. The interesting feature of it is its character. It is matter of fact, practical, didactic, concise; there is no nonsense in it and no digressions on materia medica, no magic and no astrology.

Here is a grand prescription from the Arabian School of old physicians (based on the universal antidote of King Mithridates:

One of the most favourite of their preparations, which went by the name of Theriacum, was composed of the following substances: — Squills, hedychroum, cinnamon, common pepper, juice of poppies, dried roses, water-germander, rape seed, Illyrian iris, agaric, liquorice, opobalsam, myrrh, saflFron, ginger, rhaponticum, cinquefoil, calamint, hore- hound, stone-parsley, cassidony, costus, white and long- pepper, dittany, flowers of sweet rush, male frankincense, turpentine, mastich, black cassia, spikenard, flowers of po- ley, storax, parsley seed, seseli, shepherd's pouch, bishop's weed, germander, ground pine, juice of hypocistis, Indian leaf, Celtic nard, spignel, gentian, anise, fennel seed, Lem- nian earth, roasted chalcitis, amomum, sweet flag, balsa- mum. Pontic valerian, St. John's wort, acacia, gum, carda- mom, carrot seed, galbanum, sagapen, bitumen, oposonax, castor, centaury, clematis, Attic honey, and Falernian wine.

Sixty-six ingredients composed this mixture, and with the exception of the last, we may safely affirm that the physicians who prescribed it were entirely ignorant of the effects of any one of them, either taken by those in health or given to the sick.

Another Arab book of agriculture from around 1180 by Ibn al-Awam also lists carrots and many more vegetables in the cultivated plants of Andalusia and suggests that there was a real wave of plant introductions to Spain soon after 1100. More on this Arab writing below - here.

Bodleian Scripts  - 11th Century

The late 11th century witnessed an intriguing script from Bury St Edmonds in England - MS Bodley 130 - a handwritten manuscript containing a copy of a much earlier Latin text; its illustrations are similarly inherited. The original illustrated text had been compiled in the late Roman period (4th or 5th century) relying on Greek sources.

Known as "Pseudo Apuleius, Dioscorides, Herbals (extracts); De virtutibus bestiarum in arte medicinae, in Latin and English",  St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury; c. 1070-1100.  This apparently shows a diagram of an orange carrot, which, according to most other historical records did not appear until the 15th century. So another mystery in the origins of modern carrot. 

"The script indicated that It grows in stony places and mounds." and "For women who suffer at childbirth and are not purged. - With 'Herba pastinaca', cooked, together with the same water in which it was cooked, you take 30 peppercorns; mix together and give to drink; she will be purged.

The same recipe as written above also works against toothache."

 Further evidence of the use by the ancients of Pastinaca for both carrot and parsnip.

MS Bodley 130 - 11th century script - Pseudo Apuleian text

Much more background information, including a full translation of the script together with a larger photo are included on a separate page here.


Important Copyright Notice:

The image (left) appears with the kind permission of the Bodleian Library and is copyright and any use is restricted by law. Any unauthorised copying or reproduction will constitute an infringement of copyright.

The script is held by the Bodleian Library of Oxford University as part of its collection of illuminated mediaeval manuscripts.


Similar scripts - MS. Ashmole 1462 and MS Ashmole 1431 contain the same Pseudo-Apuleian text as MS. Bodl. 130, though with some slight variations in wording.

You will notice a typo! "Pasnatica" instead of "Pastinaca" - a typical transcription error in such scripts.  This again gives a remedy for toothache. Otherwise the same recipes and place names as in the MS Bodley script referred to above.

The carrot leaves and flower do look quite accurate and no doubt orange is the root colour! Click on photos for full picture - note this a large file and will take a while to download.

MS Ashmole 1431 - Bodelian Library Script
MS Ashmole 1431 - Pastinaca (Carrot) left

MS Ashmole 1462 Script - Pseudo Apuleian text
MS. Ashmole 1462 - Pastinaca Silvatica

Important Copyright Notice: The images (above) appear with the kind permission of the Bodleian Library and are copyright and any use is restricted by law. Any unauthorised copying or reproduction will constitute an infringement of copyright.

The script is held by the Bodleian Library of Oxford University as part of its collection of illuminated mediaeval manuscripts.

 In the 12th century there was a busy period of Arab expansion into the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe.

Moorish invaders (from Morocco) and then Arabian traders brought seeds of purple and a yellow carrot tpurple carrotso the Mediterranean via the coast of North Africa, along with spinach and aubergines. They quickly spread across Europe from Spain, into Holland, France and finally England.  Many writers state that the carrot, in something like its modern form, was brought westwards, at least as far as the Arab countries of the East Mediterranean, from Afghanistan, where the very dark red, even purple, carrots of antiquity are still grown.

During this period the carrot travelled westward into the Mediterranean countries. Ibn al-Awwam, in the Kitab al-Filahah - his book on Agriculture - citing a much older work (probably Ibn al Bassal an Islamic Botanist mentioned above) - gave a definitive description of two varieties of carrots he encountered in the early part of the 12th century: a red one (probably purple) he says is tasty and juicy and the other, a yellow and green carrot, he calls coarser and of inferior flavour. This is the earliest surviving clear description of the carrot (and colours) dating from the first half of the 12th century. (Full Spanish text download here - Google books free) (French version at

Ibn al-Awwam (d 1185) was an Arab agriculturist who flourished at Seville in Spain during the 12th century. He wrote a treatise on agriculture in Arabic called "Kitab al-Filahah al-Andalusiyah" (The Book of Andalusian Agriculture), which is the most comprehensive treatment of the subject in medieval Arabic, and one of the most important medieval works on the subject in any language. It was published in Spanish and French translations in the 19th century. The edition in French, is about 1350 pages. Chapter 24 article ll gave instructions and advice on “Sowing and cultivation of root crops, including carrot, turnip, horse-radish, onion, leek, garlic, sekakul, colocasia, and others.” (See full translation of the  section on carrots here. (pdf) from the French version)

The work comprises 35 chapters dealing with agronomy, cattle and poultry raising, and beekeeping. It deals with 585 plants; explains the cultivation of more than 50 fruit trees; and includes many valuable observations on soils, manures, plant grafting, and plant diseases. This lengthy handbook on agriculture  was is the most comprehensive treatment of the subject in medieval Arabic, and one of the most important medieval works on the subject in any language.

His book is the earliest surviving clear description of the carrot thus: he told of 2 kinds of carrots: the red (vermilion, possibly purple) carrot, already known in Syria in the 4th century and rather sweet, and a larger rooted, but less tasty variety, of a green-yellow colour.

He mentions that "carrots are usually boiled with turnips, and then eat the two things together in the way we have expressed - boiling them twice and draining the water afterwards, they are infused with vinegar, and olive oil, and throwing in them rough chopped, peppermint, basil or whatever is to hand by hand, eaten with bread. "

He also mentions carrot jam thus:

"The carrot is a diuretic plant; it augments the appetite and enhances one’s energy; at the same time it brings joy to the heart. What works best for the turnip should also work well for the carrot, such as the cool weather, irrigation with fresh water, the repeated action of the north wind. The carrot does not suffer from the snow; it is even favourable, giving it strength, and encouraging a larger size.

It culminates with carrot food preparations when we eat [carrots] with vinegar, brine, olive oil, and certain vegetables or seed. It can also be a medicinal powder mixed with honey and “dibs” which is a date syrup, and with sugar; one gets in this case a great result which ranks in the class of jams

The poor also use the carrot in place of bread, that, for them, in a few cases, because it soothes hunger and the silent (little known?) fact, that it provides a healthy and nutritious diet. Lambouschad (contemporary with Plutarch… Boeotia, Greece?) recounts that the people of his country were making bread with carrots. They ground the carrots in dry pieces, added a certain quantity of wheat flour, barley, rice or millet. They completed the plan (process), and obtained a bread of good quality, healthful and nourishing.

It can also be eaten with sugary preparations (jams) and salted products; only its flavour was more agreeable with tea first; it was more nutritious and more suitable for the body. There is one species of wild carrot; the latter is rather used in medicine, while the cultivated species is more often used as food than a medicine."  (It was a widely followed rule that each Arabic agricultural book must include, even if brief, a description on the industrialisation of agricultural products. Examples regarding these include the preparation of raisins, dried fig, vinegar, pickles, jam, sugar, cotton, oils and perfumes. Arab culture included carrot, citron, pumpkin and peach jams.)

.Al-Awwam writes that carrots were served with a dressing of oil and vinegar (as in Roman recipes of ad 200) or added to vegetable mixtures and cereals, probably grains. It also described how to preserve carrots in vinegar and the use of carrots in place of bread - "The poor also use the carrot in place of bread, that, for them, in a few cases, because it soothes hunger and the little known fact, that it provides a healthy and nutritious diet. They ground the carrots in dry pieces, added a certain quantity of wheat flour, barley, rice or millet."

He also said "The carrot is a diuretic plant; it augments the appetite and enhances one’s energy; at the same time it brings joy to the heart."  See full translation of the section on carrots here. (pdf)

At this time there were also published texts called antidotaria which were recipes for compounded medications. One of the more widespread ones was called Antidotarium Nicolai available in 1140. This was later used in the curriculum at the University of Paris by the late 13th century.

Nicholas of Salerno, also known as Nicolaus Salernitanus  Italian physician who is traditionally considered the author of this famous medieval treatise on pharmacology and antidotes known as the Antidotarium Nicolai. This formulary is an important source of information about medieval pharmacy, materia medica, dentistry, and pharmacotherapy, and it was probably based on the anonymous Antidotarius magnus (composed between 1087 and 1100).

Here is what the text says about carrots:

Baucia, „Daucus graecus id est bautia vel pastinaca" (M. Sylv.). „B. dats pasternake  ende men doeter meer in spisen dan in medicinen" (Herb.). Zie : pasternake.

Suggesting that the carrot was used more as spice than for medicine. Baucia Daucus = wild carrot

Source - Eene Middelnederlandsche vertaling van het Antidotarium Nicolai, Ms. 15624-15641, Kon. Bibl. te Brussel, met den Latijnschen tekst der eerste gedrukte uitg. van het Antidotarium Nicolaï. Uitg. door W.S. van den Berg (1917)

By the 13th century scientific enquiry was returning and this was manifest through the production of encyclopaedias, those noted for their plant content included a treatise by Albertus Magnus (c.1193 -1280) a Suabian educated at the University of Padua and a tutor to St Thomas Aquinas). It was called De vegetabilibus (c.1256 AD) and even though based on original observations and plant descriptions rather than questions than medicine it bore a close resemblance to the earlier Greek, Roman and Arabic herbals

Carrots were being grown in fields, orchards, gardens, and vineyards in Germany and France. At that time the plant was known also in China, where it was supposed to have come from Persia. Doctors in the Middle Ages prescribed carrots as a medicine for every possible affliction, from syphilis to dog bites! 

Around 1287 a relatively unknown and forgotten botanist Valgius Rufinus wrote "Of the Virtues of Herbs and of their Compositions"
The prologue to the work states:

" And I have collected from the sayings of the ancient sages describing the virtues of the herbs and their workings in inferior bodies according to what they had experienced and the truth they were able to find concerning these. And first I quote the words of DIASCORIDES, second Circa instantis, third MACER, fourth ALEXANDER THE PHILOSOPHER, fifth the masters of Salerno, sixth ISAAC, seventh the Synonyms."

He almost doubles in length the account of dittany and adds to nearly a page from authorities on daucus the statement that there are three kinds: " Daucus asininus and it is called pastinaca and likewise baucia. And there is daucus Creticus which is called cartuge and there is another noble daucus which is called affanaria. Furthermore there is a daucus which is called pastumcellus. Its seeds cling to one's clothes. It is given for cricks,-detur pando ( ?)." Albertus has only four lines on dittany and his account of daucus seems limited to the Cretan variety.ms747 Egerton Tractus de Herbis

The curious carrot later traversed the route eastward via European travellers and explorers to set its roots into India and the Far East during the 13th century. By the 14th century the Netherlands, France and Germany were introduced to the carrot. It took another century to reach England's shores during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

An anonymous Andalusian Cook Book gives recipes including for the Great Drink of Roots, Syrup of Carrots and Carrot Paste (jam) and a stew with carrots.

Read full detail here - pdf.


Carrots were introduced to China in the Yuan dynasty (1260-1367) probably from Iran. (Laufer) 

Tractatus de herbis (Herbal) - Egerton MS 747 held by the British Library was produced between 1280 and 1310 and is probably an original manuscript of Tractus de Herbis a type of medicinal herbal which was to become one of the most influential texts on medicinal plants between the 14th and 16th centuries. 

Written by Bartholomaei Mini de Senis; Platearius; Nicolaus of Salerno, it contains miniature illustrations of plants in colours, usually several on a page, together with their medicinal uses inherited from Greek, Roman and Arabic sources. It also covered instructions on how to prepare each fruit or vegetable. In some cases it gives suggestions on the aphrodisiac, cosmetic and magical properties of herbs. 

The illustrations are drawn from life wherever possible to produce identifiable likenesses but over the centuries these herbals were copied repeatedly by scribes and artists who were anxious to reproduce the books in front of them. Haste, lack of skill and misunderstandings frequently resulted in plant images that were simplified, distorted and often unrecognisable!

This is the record on Daucus (picture right)

The 14th century  - saw carrot references starting to appear in main land Europe.

A large quantity of what appear to be processed fruits of Daucus carota L. were recently found in Rynek Glowny (the main market square) in Krakow in a medieval organic layer, dated to the 14th century AD. This therefore is perhaps the first archaeobotanical evidence indicating the cultivation of carrot in medieval Poland. Unprocessed carrot fruits, wild and cultivated forms being indistinguishable, are found in Europe from the Neolithic period onwards.

The sample appears to be seed for cultivation, probably sold in the main market square. Indeed, the find represents very strong evidence for medieval carrot cultivation in central Europe.  Carrots are not mentioned very often in Polish sources from the 14th and 15th centuries. Carrots may have been implied under the general term olera .(vegetables for boiling) buy even the archaeological record is slim because the seeds do not preserve well in the ground and are difficult to differentiate from wild carrot. Carrots are only mentioned four times in the accounts of King Wladyslaw and Queen Jadwiga, yet in each case the implication is that these are specially cultivated and brought early to market. (source - Food and Drink in Medieval Poland Rediscovering a Cuisine of the Past Maria Dembinska. Translated by Magdalena Thomas)

An exceptionally large concentration of carrot fruits recovered from Krakow’s main market square represent the first convincing archaeobotanical evidence for carrot cultivation in medieval Poland. The fruits have deliberately had their spines removed, a process undertaken to prepare carrot fruits for sowing, and are statistically larger in size than other occasional carrot fruits recovered from medieval archaeological contexts in the city.

Due to Krakow’s location at the centre of important medieval trade routes between Asia and Europe, it is possible that they may be a part of that trade and imported from further afield. The city was situated at a crossroads of trade routes and played an important role in medieval trade, especially of oriental goods. In early medieval times Krakow had connections with Kiev, playing a crucial role in trade between Khazaria and Western Europe.

(Reference: Journal of Archeological Science, Journal of Archaeological Science xxx (2010) 1–6)

Henry Daniel 1315 (approx) - 1385 Although little is known of Daniel's life, a good deal can be deduced from his surviving works, which include translations of medical treatises from the Latin and an extensive herbal, De re Herbaria (1375). He must originally have been comparatively well-to-do, but later became poor and joined the Dominican Order.  It was probably after entering religion that he was able to get access to the many authorities which he consulted in the compilation of his herbal.

Daniel was a scholar of distinction and a student of medicine. He sought out works which, in many cases, must have been rare in English libraries, and his surviving translations are correct, clear, and forcibly expressed.  In his youth Daniel studied medicine for seven years and in his later life had a large garden at Stepney, London, in which he grew 252 different kinds of plants, a very large number for the period.

Carrots were named by Daniel in the list of habitats as - "growing in dry places, and in meers."

In approx 1350 it is known from archaeological evidence that they consumed a variety of vegetables, both grown in gardens and gathered in the wild in the British Isles. Vegetables known from Jorvík (modern York) or Dublin include carrots, parsnips, turnips, celery, spinach, wild celery, cabbage, radishes, fava beans and peas.

In the Netherlands, France and Germany were introduced to the carrot. It took another century to reach England's shores during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. carrots had spread across north-western Europe. Poor country dwelling folk used the roots for soups that formed the main staple diet.

In around 1340 - Das buch von guter spise (the book of good food), also known as ein buch von guter spise was published, the earliest known German language cookbook. It is dated from between 1345 to 1354. The household manual, which included guter spise, was organized by Michael de Leone, who was the proto-notary (chief clerk) of the Archbishop of Würzburg. The surviving portion of the manuscript is in the library of Munich University.

79. Ein morchen mus -  A carrot puree

Der wölle machen ein morchenmus. der nem morchen. und erwelle daz uz einem brunnen. und geballen uz eime kaldem wazzer. und gehacket cleine. und tu ez denne in ein dicke mandelmilich. und mit wine wol gemacht die mandelmilich. und die morche dor inne erwellet. und tu dorzu würze genue. und ferwez mit fialblumen und gibz hin.
How one wants to make a carrot puree. One takes carrots. And boils them in water and rolled (to remove the skin) in cold water. And chopped small. And add it then in a thick almond milk, and the almond milk was well made with wine. And the carrots boiled therein. And add thereto herbs enough. And colour it with violet flowers and give out.

Source -

One of the earliest references to the red carrot in Europe comes from the Menagier of Paris who, in the 14th century, writes a series of instructions for his wife. The carrot at this time was apparently fairly new to the market for he feels it is necessary to describe for her how one may recognize the carrot  (red root).

1393 - Le Ménagier de Paris (a medieval manuscript dated to circa 1393),  contained an enormous chapter containing 197 pages of recipes, menus, and general cookery and household instructions. In the section dealing with "Other small and unnecessary things",  it is advised to cook them like turnip, and where the author directs his wife how to find carrots (the root may have been rare at that time and place) they are described as red roots which are sold at the Halles in baskets, and each basket costs one blanc.

The script also included a recipe for carrots in honey - basically boiled and then cooked in honey! There are various sorts of jams, mostly made with honey; in the Middle Ages vegetables were evidently much prepared in this way, for the Menagier speaks of turnip, carrot, and pumpkin jam.

"Garroites sont racines rouges que l'en vent ès Halles par pongnées, et chascune pongnée un blanc."Garroites -

Item, on All Saints, take carrots as many as you wish, and when they are well cleaned and chopped in pieces, cook them like the turnips.

("Garroites [carrots?] are red roots that are sold out of (Les) Halles in bunches, and each bunch (costs) a blanc [a silver coin equivalent to a sixpence]."

By way of comparison, the cost per bunch is half the cost of a chicken at the time.) The "like turnips" is to cook them a bit in water (not over-cook), drop in cold water to stop them cooking, drain, and then put into lukewarm honey and soak for a long time (perhaps for a week, then start again with the honey lukewarm, until a month has gone by).
Image from pages 244-245

Compost/Pickled Root Vegetables Forme of Cury from Curye on Inglysch - 14th Century Cook book

Take rote of persel, of pasternak, of rafens, scrape hem and waische hem clene. Take rapes and caboches, ypared and icorue. Take an erthen panne with clene water & set it on the fire; cast alle thise therinne. Whan they buth boiled cast thereto peeres, & perboile hem wel. Take all thise thynges up and lat it kele on a faire cloth. Do thereto salt; whan it is colde, do hit in a vessel; take vyneger & powdour & safroun & & do thereto, & lat alle thise thynges lye therein al nyght, other al day. Take wyne greke and hony, clarified togider; take lumbarde mustard & raisouns coraunce, al hoole, & trynde powdour of canel, powdour douce & aneys hole, & fenell seed. Take alle thise thynges & cast togyder in a pot of erthe, & take thereof whan thou wilt & serue forthe.

Modern Version -  Parboil root vegetables, cabbage in water until almost tender. Drain and cool. Mix honey and wine together. Add to spices to the wine and honey mixture, mix thoroughly. Cover vegetables with wine and honey mixture. Keep covered at least 24 hours. Although 3 days is best. Then arrange on a platter and serve.

Tacuinum Sanitatis Lavishly illustrated manuscripts known as the Tacuinum Sanitatis were firsTacunium Sanitatis 14th century illustration of orange carrott commissioned by northern Italian nobility during the last decades of the 14th century.

These manuscripts were based on an 11th century Arabic manuscript known as the Taqwim al-Sihha bi al-Ashab al- Sitta (Rectifying Health by Six Causes), which was a guide for healthy living written by the Christian physician and philosopher Abu al- Hasan al-Mukhtar ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Abdun ibn Sa’dun Ibn Butlan (d. 1063), who was born and educated in Baghdad and whose travels took him to localities that are today in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Israel, and Turkey. The Taqwim was a guide for healthy living, based on ancient philosophical concepts of Greek sciences. It summarized in tabular form information on some 280 health-related items, in particular food and especially vegetables and fruits.

 (picture right - (E) parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) from Vienna 2644 folio 28r; (F) carrot (Daucus carota) from Roma 4182 folio 49r.)

The Historia Plantarum is an interesting and historically significant source about medicine and also about the everyday life of the Middle Ages. According to medieval doctors, various elements were needed for a healthy lifestyle: proper diet, exercise and enough sleep, and a balanced emotional state. A life in harmony with nature was recommended. This guaranteed people health and well-being. The illuminated manuscript is illustrated with over five hundred illustrations of plants in alphabetical order. The depictions convey an astoundingly detailed and imposing overview of the thorough knowledge about plant life, which one possessed in late medieval Italy. In addition to these botanical pictudaucus creticus ms 459 Roma  CARROTres come more than eighty illustrations of animals, from which one obtained healing remedies, as well as over 30 depictions of mineral derivatives.

Prominent Previous Owners - The manuscript was made at the end of the 14th century at the court of Gian Galeazzo Visconti. The ruler was the most powerful and glorious scion of the great Visconti family and created during his reign one of the most impressive collections of unbelievably valuable book treasures. Gian Galeazzo presented the splendid Historia Plantarum to Wenzel IV, King of Bohemia and Germany, with whom he forged a good political relationship. Today the medical encyclopedia is found in the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome. (Image right fol 85r daucus creticus (cretan carrot)

Known as MS 459 Historia Plantarum (1395-40)  - This manuscript is one of several that are derivatives of the Tacuinum sanitatis, a medieval healthy living guide which is a Latin translation of an 11th Century Arab medical treatise, Taqwīm as-sihha bi al-Ashab al-Sitta, written by the Christian physician and philosopher Ibn Butlan of Baghdad (d. 1063) (source). The Taqwīm synthesised a variety of Greek-derived medical science and traditions and considered approximately 280 health-related items including food, drink, climate, bodily activities and clothing (source). The translation into Latin was commissioned by the Court of Naples and Sicily and completed by 1266 (source). This Latin version was copied repeatedly and circulated around Europe, with the first illustrated copies being commissioned in the late 14th Century by northern Italian nobility (source).

Derivative copies merged abbreviated versions of the Tacuinum sanitatis (usually the entries regarding food) with medical encyclopaedias and/or Theoprastus' Historia Plantarum, an early botanical handbook that included the medical uses of plants. This copy consists of the Historia Plantarum followed by some Tacuinum sanitatis entries.

In the 15th century the early orange varieties were introduced to England by Flemish refugees who grew them in quantity mainly in Kent and Surrey.  Several Herbalists mention "karettes" in their lists of roots for a garden. A separate page in the Carrot Museum details what the herbalists said. Here.

This is an excerpt from An Anonymous Tuscan Cookery Book (Italy, ~1400 - Ariane Helou, here)


[62] Take carrots well cleaned and boiled, and let them cool: and in their water cook turnips (rape) cut in four pieces and not cooked too much, and likewise let them cool.  Then take parsley roots, radishes, … and the white part of leeks, and fennel, pears, capers, and heads of cabbage, and boil everything separately, and cool them as above: according to the Lombard custom, you can put in garobbi [see note]. Then take good mustard, made with strong vinegar, fennel seeds, anise; and arrange them individually in batches.  And put finely sliced radish in each batch of the aforementioned vegetables, and put in mustard and then particular vegetables, as is convenient.  These things thus arranged, put them in a jar, and put a large board on top, and let it stand for eight days.

[TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: Garobbi is fish sauce, likely a descendant of the Roman garum. J. Florio’s Italian-English dictionary (1611) defines garo as “a kinde of dainty meat for gluttons made of the fat and softroe of divers fishes.  Also a kind of long fish which some take for the Pickerell.  Also the dripping that comes from garbage or offale of fishes.  Also fish-pickle or brine.”]

[63] Another preparation.  Take finely minced radishes, anise, fennel seeds, and set them to cook in must; and cook them so much that the must is reduced to half: and with this must dilute the mustard.  Then take small turnips (rape piccioli) and turnips (naponi), and quince, and apples, cut into four pieces, and pears cut in half, and whole carrots, and parsley roots, and fennel bulbs, and set all of these things to cook.  And when they are cooked, arrange them in order in a clean jar, interspersing the diluted mustard on top, in the aforementioned batches.  And if you like, you can put in some honey; and this can be made with sugar and cinnamon diluted with the aforementioned things and with vinegar, and put it away and serve it."

The archaeobotanical data from the Renaissance period, so-called Vasca Ducale (Ducal Pit), a brick rubbish pit discovered in the basal floor of the ducal palace of Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy shows it was in use during the second half of the 15th century A.D. when the rich and powerful Este family inhabited the palace. The results help to investigate the eating customs of a Renaissance court. A very small percentage of the finds contained mercaps (sseds) of Daucus carota.

(source: Veget Hist Archaeobot (2009) 18:389–402 DOI 10.1007/s00334-009-0220-z -  Luxury food and ornamental plants at the 15th century A.D. Renaissance court of the Este family (Ferrara, northern Italy) Giovanna Bosi Æ Anna Maria Mercuri et al 9 October 2007 / Accepted: 20 April 2009 / Published online: 17 June 2009  Springer-Verlag 2009)

The end of the 15th century is the end of the period which linguists know as "Middle English" (commencing in the 11thC). Words for carrot are found in several middle English dictionaries and here is an example:

The carrot had different names in old English - feld-more, more, feldmoru and wealhmore, tank and clapwype.

The Middle English Dictionary is a dictionary of Middle English published by the University of Michigan in 2001 and shows the entry “clapwype n. The carrot or parsnip 1425”

One of the most famous physicians of this period was Master John Arderne, Surgeon of Newark (England), who wrote De Arte Phisicali (c.1412) ("The Art of Medicine) and who treated royalty.  He wrote about medical complaints and their remedies and was considered a master in his field but his cure for kidney stones was a hot plaster smeared with honey and pigeon dung! MasterJohn Arderne, Surgeon of Newark (England) 1412

Arderne was essentially an operating surgeon whose practice lay amongst the nobility, wealthy landowners and the higher clergy. He was himself well educated though a layman and he met his patients on terms of equality. Here is how he used carrot seeds.

"Against constipation when it is due to deformity of the liver and hot materies morbi. Digest the materies morbi thus : R. endive, scolopendrium, maidenhair aa. one handful ; the four lesser cold seeds and fennel aa. Bj ; sandals Bi- Make a syrup of them and purge the patient with rhubarb. If it be from a cold cause he must by no means eat butcher's meat, but he may have the flesh of fowls. Let him sometimes drink poor man's broth and sometimes rich man's, but if he is a pauper let him drink his own urine. If, for any reason he will not drink it let him wash the region of the liver or collect his water for 4 or 5 days and then make a decoction. Distil it and clear it with white of egg and of that water make a syrup with these seeds, smallage, carrot, parsley, caraway, fennel and the four cold seeds not cleansed, &c. aa. 31/2, a handful of .... and an ounce of red saunders. Make a syrup with honey and sugar q.s. and give it with 3iii of benedict in a decoction of polypody, anise and fennel seed.

The greater cold seeds were Citrul, Cucumber, Gourd and Melon.  The lesser cold seeds were Endive, Succory, Lettuce and Purslain.

The greater hot seeds were Anise, Caraway, Cumin and Fennel.

The lesser hot seeds were Bishop's weed [Ammi majus], Amomum, Smallage and Wild Carrot"

(Above from the Replica of the Stockholm Manuscript in the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum. Drawing of Arderne from 15th Century manuscript in the British Museum, Sloane MS. 2002 ).

Two fifteenth century cooks books taken from the Haeleiian Manuscripts. 279 (1430), & MS. 4016 (about 1450) show the use of carrots in England at this period. Carrots were called the old English "Wortes".  The recipes included, Hare in Wortes, buttered wortes, long wortes de pesone and whyte wortes in a pottage. Some sources indicate that Wortes could also be any field vegetable which was available.

(Source -

The above page lists some of the dishes served at a feast held for the ordination of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1443. The feast included a 'sotelte' or 'subtlety' - an elaborate sugar sculpture - in this instance in the form of a biblical scene.
The book's first recipe is for 'hare in wortes'.
This manuscript, entitled A Boke of Kokery, was written around 1440, and contains 182 recipes. Copy of script here.

In 1400 an orange rooted illustration of Pastinaca appeared, this time in an Italian herbal, Herbarium Apuleii, Lombardy.(right)Pastinaca Ilustration 1400 Lombardy

One plant, bottom, "pastinaca silvatice" probably (family Umbelliferae) Pastinaca sp. (often Parsnip, sometimes carrot) has three major stems bearing odd-pinnate compound leaves with triangular dentate leaflets and terminating in umbels of flowers or seeds.

At the top of each stem are small round objects. (Cf. Corpus medicorum Latinorum, v. 4, p. 147-148.) Adjacent text: Herbarium Apuleii.

(Source  :Yale Medical Library. Manuscript. 18 [Herbarium Apuleii and other works]. [ca. 1400] MS 18 fol. [33v] )

1460 - Maestro Martino da Como  -" Libro de arte coquinaria  - The carrot only appears  in a recipe to give a pavonazo (purple colour) to the jelly, thus confirming that at the time the carrots were of that colour in Italy. (Full text here)

Per fare gelatina di carne o di pesce de duo o tre colori in un vaso.

Here is a summary translation:

To make jelly of meat or fish of two or three colours in a “jar”.

It describes a method of making savoury meat jelly using goats feet, water, vinegar, ginger and peppercorn. Then goes on to indicate how to make different colours thus:

When the dishes are well set to make different colors you have to take out a quarter of the jelly that is in the dish and put It on a jar and warm It. So, when the jelly is completely dissolved you can add saffron to make It yellow, and when It is cold you can put It again in the dish.

Then, when the jelly is formed again, you have to take out another quarter and follow the same process to make it red adding “corgnali” (unknown item)

To make a quarter of jelly green you need to ground wheat or barley unripe with some parsley.

In the same way you can make the jelly purple with some cooked carrots: after having cleansed them, you have to cut the root, that has the purple colour, and to put It in the jar in which the jelly is warmed, following the process used to make the others colours.

1475 - Carrot is also mentioned by Italian cook Bartolomeo Sacchi (a.k.a Platina) in his dish "Cariota" - Here are some words and, and recipes of sorts, for both the carrot and the parsnip. He considers them simply variations of the same medicinally useful vegetable.  Probably in the summer of 1465 Platina composed De honesta voluptate et valetudine ("On honourable pleasure and health") considered by some to be the first printed cookbook, a monument of medieval cuisine in Renaissance intellectual trappings left the press in 1474 and ran into dozens of editions, disseminating Roman ideas about fine dining throughout Western Europe.

(From De Honesta Voluptate (On Honest Indulgence and Good Health), Bartolomeo Platina,  - On Right Pleasure and Good Health; Platina 1475, from the Milham translation).

"Cariota - Roast carrots in the coals, then peel them, cleaning off the ashes, and cut them up. Put in a dish with oil, vinegar and a bit of wine; scatter a few mild herbs on the top.

On the Carrot and Parsnip - There are two kinds of parsnip (probably parsnip and carrot).  Doctors say that the parsnip is white while the carrot is red or almost black.  Both are difficult to digest and of little and harsh nourishment. The parsnip should be boiled twice, with the first water thrown away, and cooked with lettuce the second time. Transferred from there to a dish and seasoned with salt, vinegar, coriander, and pepper, it is suitable to eat, for it settles cough, pleurisy, and dropsy, and arouses passion. It is even customary for it to be rolled in meal and fried in oil and fat when it has been hollowed out after the first boiling.
Carrot is seasoned in the same way as parsnip, but it is considered sweeter if cooked under warm ash and coals. When it is taken out, it should cool a little, be peeled, scraped entirely free of ash, cut up in bits and transferred in to a dish. Salt should be added, oil and vinegar sprinkled on, some condensed must or must added, and sweet spices sprinkled over. There is nothing more pleasant to eat than this. It is good for people in two respects, for it represses bile and moves the urine. In other ways it is harmful, as it is for liver, stomach, and spleen."

Another version Platina p. 68 (Book 4) ... The parsnip should be boiled twice, the first liquid thrown away and cooked the second time with lettuce. Then it is put on a plate and dressed with salt, vinegar, coriander, and pepper, and is very fit to serve. ... The carrot is prepared in the same way as the parsnip, but is considered more pleasant when cooked under warm ashes and coals... Modern Recipe - 1 lb carrots 1/2 t salt 1/2 t coriander 2/3 lb lettuce 1 T + 1 t vinegar 1/12 t pepper Wash carrots, wash and tear up lettuce. Put carrots in boiling water, boil 12 minutes. Drain them. Put carrots and lettuce in boiling water for another 6 minutes. Drain them. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Carrot also appeared frequently in several Islamic cookery books of the 15th century including a famous one written by Ibn al-Mabrad. Here is one reference:

Jazariyyah  p. 18 – A 15th C Eastern Islamic Cookbook  - Meat is boiled with a little water. Carrots, garlic cloves and peeled onions are put with it, then crushed garlic is put with it. Some people put spinach with it also; some make it without spinach. Walnuts and parsley are put in. 2 lb meat (lamb) 4 very small onions (5 oz) 1/4 c walnuts [1/2 t pepper] 4 carrots (1 lb) 2 cloves crushed garlic 1/4 c parsley [3/4 t coriander] 6 whole garlic cloves (~ .6 oz) 2 c spinach = 5 oz [1 t cinnamon] [3/4 t salt] Cut the lamb up small and put it in 1 1/2 c water with cinnamon, pepper, coriander and salt. Simmer 10 minutes. Add carrots cut up, whole garlic cloves, and small onions. Simmer 10 minutes. Add crushed garlic. Simmer 20 minutes. Add spinach. Simmer 10 minutes. Garnish with walnuts and parsley.

After Columbus' first visit to the Caribbean in 1492, the islands became the melting pot of the world with explorers from Europe, Asia, Africa and America who each brought plants, animals, and customs from their homelands.

1471 - Pietro de' Crescenzi (c. 1230/35 – c. 1320 -  Latin: Petrus de Crescentiis), was a Bolognese jurist, now remembered for his writings on horticulture and agriculture, the Ruralia commoda, sometimes known as the Liber ruralium commodorum ("book of rural benefits"), was completed some time between 1304 and 1309, and was dedicated to Charles II of Naples, and mentions red carrots for the first time.  The treatise became the most influential medieval handbook on agriculture and the first printed modern text on agriculture.

Images from 1485 - Herbarius. Patauie impressus : Johann Petri. Entitled "Of the Virtues of Herbs". Original in Harvard University Library.

pastinaca wildmoren 1485

pastinaca domesticus 1485

daucus creticus 1485

Pastinaca Wildmoren - Wild Carrot Pastinaca Domesticus Moren - Domestic Carrot Daucus Creticus fogelnest - Cretan Carrot Bird's Nest

According to Hales History of Agriculture by dates (1915)

"1485.—Previous to the reign of Henry, VII., King of England, which began in this year, there did not grow in that country any vegetable or eatable root, such as carrot, parsnip, cabbage."

The end of the 15th century saw the "The Columbian Exchange" -  the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, and ideas between the Americas and the Old World in the 15th and 16th centuries, related to European colonization and trade after Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage. Invasive species and including communicable diseases, were a negative by-product of the Exchange. Carrots were amongst the list of plants being carried from the Old World to the New.

The new contact between the global populations circulated a wide variety of crops and livestock, which supported increases in population in both hemispheres, although diseases initially caused precipitous declines in the numbers of indigenous peoples of the Americas. The Columbian Exchange was a term coined by Alfred Crosby, was initiated in 1492.

The routes of the Silk Road remained in use until 1453 when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with China and shut them down.

It has been nearly 600 years since the Silk Road was used for international trade.

Next Page - The Carrot from 1500 to 1700

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