Carrots History - 1700 to 1900

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History of the Carrot Part Five

Science & Enlightenment - 1700 to 1900

Chapters in the history rooms:
 
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 History Part 1 - A Brief Timeline

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

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

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

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

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

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 History of Carrot Colour - Explores, in some detail the theories of the road to domestication and the origin of Orange Carrots

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

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 Illustrations of Carrot in Ancient Manuscripts and Early Printed Books


18th Century  By the 1700's Holland was the leading country in carrot breeding and today's "modern" orange version is directly descended from the Dutch-bred carrots of this time.. At the time four main orange varieties existed - Early Half Long, Late Half Long, Scarlet Horn and Long Orange. All modern Hybrids are derived from these four strains. It was attractive enough to figure in several Dutch masters paintings. See the Art page for some truly great works of art featuring carrots. Many cookbooks prior to the 1850s attempted to merge medicine with cookery. As a result, many dangerous, even deadly, "cure-alls" are given, reflecting the primitive medical knowledge of that era.

In this period many new ways had been gradually found of utilising the materials for food, and vegetables were growing more plentiful. The carrot was predominantly used in soups, puddings, and tarts.

The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary; Or, The Accomplish'd Housewife's Companion (1723) by John Nott was a very early reference to recipes with carrots as the main ingredient. (below)

In Batty Langley's New Principles of Gardening (1728) he describes the three primary varieties of carrots - Yellow (or Orange), Red and Wild as follows:

"Of Carrots we have three kinds, viz. The yellow or orange carrot, the red Carrot, and the wild or white Carrot; of which the yellow is the most valuable, called in Greek staphilinus, in Latin Pastinaca sativa tenuifolia, in High Dutch Geelruben, in Low Dutch Geel Peen, Pooteen of Wortelen, in French Carotte, in Italian Pastinaca, in Spanish Zanahoria and in English yellow Carrot.

The root is of an orange (rather than a Limon) Colour both without and within. I have had carrots of this kind that have been twenty two inches in length and of twelve inches in circumference. And although Carrots of a very large size are much valued by many, I cannot recommend them as much as the middling size which are always much sweeter and less insipid.

The Red Carrot is of the same form, both in Leaves, Stalk, Seed and Root, but very rarely grows so large. Its Leaves are of a dark reddish green, and its root of a blackish red without, and yellowish within; and is very seldom cultivated in our gardens.

(This is probably a reference to the purple carrot, which by this time is disappearing in England.)

The Wild Carrot is called in Greek staphilinus agrios, in Latin Pastinaca Sylvestris tenuifolia by some Daucus, in High Dutch wild Pastenen, Vogel nest, in Low Dutch Vogels nest and wild Caroten, Crookens cruyt, in French Pastenade Sauvage, in England wild Carrot, and after the Dutch Birds Nest. the roots are very small and a mean length and often white."

1735 Botanalogica Universalis Hibernica written by  John K’Eogh, Chaplain to Lord Kingston - "An account of Herbs, Shrubs and Trees and their medicinal qualities and virtues" gave these uses for carrot and its wild form:

In 1736 E. Smith's wrote "Compleat Housewife," and included this delicious and unusual recipe -

To make Carrot or Parsnip Puffs:—Scrape and boil your carrots or parsnips tender; then scrape or mash them very fine, add to a pint of pulp the crumb of a penny-loaf grated, or some stale biscuit, if you have it, some eggs, but four whites, a nutmeg grated, some orange-flower-water, sugar to your taste, a little sack, and mix it up with thick cream. They must be fry'd in rendered suet, the liquor very hot when you put them in; put in a good spoonful in a place.

In 1740 a recipe for Carrot Pudding appeared - "Receipts (recipes) of Pastry and Cookery For the Use of his Scholars. By Ed. Kidder (1720-1740)" read more on carrot puddings here.Cure for Stone and Gravel 1740

Also in 1740 there was also published (right) -  "A most excellent cure for the stone and gravel" by Joanna Stephens  - pills containing Wild Carrot seeds.  (Gravel = Sandlike concretions of uric acid, calcium oxalate, and mineral salts formed in the passages of the biliary and urinary tracts.) Source US National Library of Medicine, Digital Collections).

By 1749 it appears that England was exporting carrots, via the Dutch East India Company. The ship "Amsterdam", built in 1748 in Amsterdam, was lost during her maiden voyage, outward bound for Batavia, the modern Djakarta, in January 1749 near the little town of Hastings on the south coast of England. The excavations of the wreck form part of an integrated historical and archaeological programme to create relevant historical models for understanding the ship and its contents. Among the different kinds of vegetable remains, such as the seeds of spinach, carrot, wild radish, beet, purslane, black mustard and coriander. In addition to rice, wheat and other cereals, seeds and pips of fruits like figs and blackberries were found. (Source - East Indiaman Amsterdam research 1984-1986 J Gawronski - ANTIQUITY 64 (1990): 363-75)

John Wesley,MA 1747 wrote "A Primitive Physic, an easy and natural method of curing most diseases", this included carrots in several "cures" -

A cancer in the breast  - 112. A Poultice of wild Parsnips or scraped Carrots, Flowers, Leaves and Stalks, changing it Morning and evening.

 For Putrid wounds 822. “Apply a carrot poultice.”

(A Cancer was described as a hard, round, uneven, painful swelling, of a blackish or leaden Colour, the Veins round which seem ready to burst. It comes commonly with a Swelling about as big as a Pea, which does not at first give much Pain, nor change the colour of the Skin.)

1747 Prussian chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf, 38, discovered that beets and carrots contain small amounts of sugar.

1747 The New English Dispensary indicates - Various species all used in medicine -Wild Carrot seed infused in ale is an esteemed diuretic, and excellent to prevent the stone and alleviate its more violent fits. It also expels gravel and provokes urine and the menses. Domestic carrot has dark red roots.  the roots are frequently used in food though they are flatulent. They are thought to render the body soluble and contribute to the cure of the cough. A dram of seeds of white carrot reduced to a powder are exhibited in Baum water as a specific against hysteric fits. (Extract here)

1751 John Hill wrote "A History of Materia Medica,  containing descriptions of all the substances used in medicine"  in which in chapter 23 he commeThomas Short 1751 antidote wild carrot seednted   (full extract here, pdf)

"There are two kinds of daucus seeds kept in the shops, daucus creticus and daucus vulgaris.  Creticus was found to breed insects and therefore had no virtue. It principally came from Germany or the Levant (eastern Mediterranean -  specifically Anatolia). Creticus was described as having a long root, the thickness of a mans finger. Vulgaris was called the common or wild carrot with a short and broad root, terminating obtusely at the end. It's colour was dark brown and tasted similar to Cretan carrot but weaker and fainter. The seeds of both plants have similar virtues described as being powerful diuretics as well as good carminatives and uterines. The Cretic kind is one of the four lesser hot seeds in the shops and enters into some officinal compositions."

(Cretan carrot seeds were used in ancient recipes for universal panacea drugs such as " Theriac or theriaca " which was a medical concoction originally formulated by the Greeks in the 1st century AD)

1751 Thomas Short, MD of Sheffield (UK) wrote an account of the nature, virtues and uses of physical pants found in Great Britain, commonly called "Medicina Britannica". He gave several references to the use of wild carrot seeds in several concoctions, including an antidote to poisons. (218, above right)

1755 - John Hill wrote "The Useful Family Herbal - an account of those English plants which are remarkable for their virtues" and included this passage about carrots (note the spelling with a single "r")

In January 1766 a Mr. Young, in his treatise upon the management of hogs, was of opinion that "boiled carrots are the best food for fattening that useful animal. He prefers them to pollard, white pease, buck wheat, or potatoes". (Reported in a collection of Georgical essay, published in 1802 - archive.org here

The therapeutic use of seeds occurred again in 1772 when Nicholas Robinson, MD Royal College of Physicians, wrote his complete "Treatise of Stones, Gravel and all other sabulous secretions wherein are discovered the Great virtues of Burdoc and Wild Carrot Seeds."  This work recommends "a tea made with wild carrot seeds sweetened with Lisbon sugar, and to drink half a pint at night and morning and in 3 days the pain is greatly relieved and in 5 days gone altogether. This "remedy" is a diuretic (which carrot seeds are) cause greater discharge of gravel from the kidneys and bladder than naturally would discharge from these organs." (source Wellcome Library Medical Tracts 321).

(Lisbon sugar -  An alternative name for CLAYED SUGAR. This was made from MUSCOVADO in a SUGAR POT called by the French a 'forme' in which the sugar was first cooled with the bottom hole plugged, The MOLASSES were then drained before a layer of wet clay was placed on top. From it water and clay oused through the sugar taking with it the last remnants of molasses [Rees (1819-20, 1972 ed.)], though possibly leaving traces of clay in the sugar itself.)

1782 Advice was given on how to dress carrots -

"The modern cook: and frugal housewife's compleat guide to every branch in displaying her table to the greatest advantage" by E Spencer, in England.

The book also contained several recipes including carrot and a carrot pudding recipe.

(Image right, source US National Library of Medicine, Digital Collections)

How to dress carrots 1782

We also know that the carrot root crop was adopted by Native Americans, because it was listed among the Native American stores of crops destroyed by General John SGeneral John Sullivanullivan's army in 1779 during their forays of Indian territory.   (USA history, read more here)  The expedition of General Sullivan against the Six Nations (Iroquois) in the Genesee county, upper New York State, ascertained that local Indians had fields of corn, and gardens of beans, peas, turnips, cabbages, melons, carrots, parsnips and potatoes. (Hales History of Agriculture by Dates, 1915)

The story is told that children of the Flathead tribe in Oregon liked carrots so well that they could not resist stealing them from the fields, although they resisted stealing other things.

Find out more about John Sullivan (1740-1795) by clicking the picture.

Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson  (3rd President of the Unites States) raised several types of carrots in his Monticello garden. In 1814 he produced 18 bushels of carrots.. Thomas Jefferson wrote that "the greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture."

The gardens at Monticello were a botanic garden, an experimental laboratory of ornamental and useful plants from around the world. At Monticello, Jefferson cultivated over 250 vegetable varieties in his 1000-foot-long garden terrace and 170 fruit varieties in the eight-acre fruit garden, designed romantic grottos, garden temples, and ornamental groves, and took visitors on rambling surveys of his favourite "pet trees."  Jefferson was crazy about gardening.  See Jefferson's handwritten note here about how he underestimated the amount of carrots he needed.

An interesting letter from George Divers to Thomas Jefferson in 1809 gives an idea of one man's preferences for several of the root crops. "I sow 200 feet each of parsnip and beet. 320 feet each salsafy and carrots…which is a very ample provision for my table and indeed, more than sufficient." Jefferson's Garden Book (first citation) shows:-  Carrots (1774), Early Carrot (1812), Large Carrot (1812), Orange Carrot (1809), Yellow Carrot (1811).

He also said "I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, and that not as an aliment, so much as a condiment for the vegetables which constitute my principal diet." (TJ to Dr. Vine Utley, 21 March 1819)

Carrots were allowed to escape cultivation and subsequently turned into the omnipresent and delicate wild flower  "Queen Anne's Lace" which in some US counties is still considered a pest today. Find out more about the wild carrot on its own page. Click here.

When the British Navy blockaded West Indian sugar from entering Europe in the 18th century, chemists made sugar from organic carrots, sugar is still extracted from beets (incidentally, rabbits much prefer beets to carrots).

In the long history of plant science, no name is more famous than that of Linnaeus and no book is more highly regarded than his "Species Plantarum," published in 1753, the starting-point for the Latin binomial, or two-word, names of plants. These are recognized in all countries, and so enable positive identification of a plant species anywhere, regardless of innumerable vernacular names.

Theophrastus, the father of botany used binomials even in the 4th century B.C., but it was Linnaeus who systematized them and made them into a workable code of nomenclature, distinguishing for the first time between species and varieties, and making the species the unit of classification. He recognised Daucus Pastinaca in the first edition.

The Compleat Book of Husbandry, Volume three by Thomas Hale, 1758, which "contained rules for the whole business of farmer in cultivating, planting and stocking of land":

"There is a variety of colour in the roots of the carrot, the gardeners have hence made what they call three principal kinds: These they call, white carrot1. The dark red carrot. 2. The orange carrot. And 3. the white carrot.  The first and last of these terms are somewhat improper, the first kind being only a very deep orange, and the other a very pale yellow. The first is most esteemed. The white kind is more common in France and Italy than here; and is the sweetest and finest flavoured of them all. The farmer is to cultivate not that which is best, but what people think so; and therefore he is to chuse the deep red, commonly called the Sandwich carrot."

A British army manual written in 1798 sang the praises of soup for weary troops. Nothing is so agreeable and at the same time so wholesome to a soldier, after a fatiguing and perhaps wet march, as some warm soup. The use of broth or soup is particularly advantageous after great fatigue, because, on these occasions, the digestive organs are weakened and less liable to bear solid food than at other times. That manual went on to enumerate the items usually available for the army mess’s soup kettle. Among these were cabbage, carrots, parsnips, onion, and potatoes. (The Soldiers Friend 1798)

John Wesley gave to the world in 1769 an admirable little treatise on Primitive Physic, or an Easy and Natural Method for Curing most Diseases; the medicines on which he chiefly relied being our native plants. For asthma, he advised the sufferer to "live a fortnight on boiled Carrots only"; for "baldness, to wash the head with a decoction of Boxwood"; for "blood-spitting to drink the juice of Nettles".

On the 28th of November, 1771, British explorer Captain James Cook was appointed to the command of the Resolution in which he made his second voyage of discovery to the south Pacific

On 17 January 1773, Resolution was the first ship to cross the Antarctic Circle.  Captain Cook's own account of the voyage includes a section on the provisions he took for the voyage:-

We had besides many extra articles, such as malt, sour krout, salted cabbage, portable broth, saloup, mustard, marmalade of carrots, and inspissated juice of wort and beer. Some of these articles had before been found to be highly antiscorbutic; and others were now sent out on trial, or by way of experiment;—the inspissated juice of beer and wort, and marmalade of carrots especially. As several of these antiscorbutic articles are not generally known, a more particular account of them may not be amiss. Marmalade of carrots is the juice of yellow carrots, inspissated till it is of the thickness of fluid honey, or treacle, which last it resembles both in taste and colour. It was recommended by Baron Storsch, of Berlin, as a very great antiscorbutic; but we did not find that it had much of this quality.  (Inspissated means evaporated off to make a syrup)

The ship took 30 imperial gallons (140 l) of 'Mermalade of Carrots'.

MS 6 recipe for carrot marmalade

From letterbook of Captain James Cook http://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/2812508

Extract of a letter to Captain Cook, aboard the sloop Resolution at Deptford Dock, from Baron Storsch, written from Berlin 12 September 1771. The letter is in a letterbook of orders, correspondence and instructions to and from Cook and the British Admiralty in preparation for his second voyage of discovery.

In the letter Storsch remarks the recipe is “one of the best Remedies against the Scurvy, it will be of the greatest use in long Sea Voyages, and if this Remedy should take it will of consequence improve the Culture of this useful wholesome Root.”

Captain Cook Marmalade

Text of the letter - About the beginning of October when the Yellow Carrots are the Sweetest, you take fresh out of the Ground as many as you intend to make use of. Take care to chose them well, that none with black Spots be left between them.

You wash your Carrots sundry times & clean them nicely of the Herb as well as of the Green Top.

If you intend to make but a Small quantity of the Marmalade you may grate your Carrots upon a Tin Grater but should you want any large quantity, you may mince or hatch the Carrots which you put into a Kettle And Add as much fresh water, that your Carrots be cover’d with about four inches with Water. You boil them over a Small fire until they are reduced to a pap, the Grated Carrots Want less boiling, the hatched ones must be boil’d about twelve hours, take a great care never to give too Much fire after they begin to boil & to stir your Carrots now & then of fear they may stick and burn beneath.

When your Carrots are boil’d enough, you must strain them well through a clean linen and press the Felt well, that all the juice may come out, the dregs are a good Food for Hogs, Geese & Ducks. You put the filtrated Juice of Carrots into another Kettle & boil it again over a small fire until it gets the thickness of a fluid honey, at this last boiling you must take great care by constant stirring and by small firing to prevent its sticking to the Kettle & burning, which will give to your Marmalade a bitter and disagreeable taste.

When your Marmalade is enough boil’d and well done, you preserve it into Stone or Earth pots, well varnish’d & keep it well cover’d with a Parchment or Bladder, if it is well made & thick enough boil’d, it will preserve full two years.

Should your Marmalade spoil by some accident or other and get some moisture at the top, you take of the moisture with a Spoon and boil it again and it will regain its first sweetness.

Other method of making the Carrot Marmalade

You squeeze the Juice out of the grated or hatched Carrots and boil it immediately thick without any addition of water either over a Small fire or even over boiling water, you preserve it in the abovementioned way, but it will not keep above a twelve month.

In some Parts of Germany where many acres of Carrots are cultivated they make use of Oil Mills to squeeze the juice of the Carrots and boil it afterwards in the last mentioned manner.

One acre of good soil well plowed will want 24 ounces of carrot seeds, a less rich soil will want 2 pound of seed per acre.

The carrot don’t improve well in a well dung land.

In 1773, Captain Cook and navigator Tobias Furneaux planted a number of gardens in Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand, with plants such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cabbages, onions, leeks, parsley, radish, mustard, broad beans, kidney beans, peas, turnips and wheat. That same year, south of Cape Kidnappers, Cook gave the Māori chief Tuanui roots and seeds, including wheat, beans, peas, cabbages, turnips, onions, carrots, parsnips and yams. When Europeans arrived, Māori replaced their traditional crops with those brought by Europeans. Their main crop was soon potatoes, which provided a heavier and more reliable food source than kūmara, and could be grown throughout the country. Corn, cabbages, tobacco, carrots, turnips, squash, swedes and new varieties of kūmara were also added to Māori gardens.
 

By the start of the 19th century vegetable growing had become a highly profitable enterprise for some coastal tribes who sold or traded their vegetables with whalers, sealers and the first European settlers.

Although Māori adopted the new crops they did not adopt all European horticultural practices. Māori were reluctant to use hoes and spades, preferring their traditional tools. They also refrained from fertilising their crops with animal manure, instead continuing to clear new sites when the fertility of their gardens dropped.

On 13 May 1787 it was recorded that a total of 66 bushels of seed was loaded aboard HMS Sirius, Supply and Golden Grove, part of the fleet of eleven ships which left Portsmouth, England for Australia. Gidley King's gang of convict gardeners sowed carrot seed at Norfolk Island on 17 March 1788, just two weeks after their arrival. It noted that the seedlings had sprouted by 21 March (probably not correct!). More carrots, from "English Seeds" were sown on 7 July and the mature roots were gathered in October. 

In November 1788 recorded in the transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (second volume, part 1) was a report on the distillation of spirits from carrots Mr Hornby and Dr Hutton, conducted in 17 May 1788. Mr Thomas Hornby, druggist from York described the process for producing an ardent spirit from carrots. The experiment concluded that 200 tons of carrots would produce 200 gallons of proof spirit. 

This proved to be more expensive than creating spirit from grain (malt, wheat and rye) but the resulting “refuse” could compensate for that cost through its sale for animal feed. It also concluded that the corn could then be better used for other purposes  “an object worthy of attention and encouragement”. (see full account in an extract from Royal Society papers here - pdf).  This proposition was again repeated in 1803, attempting to make an ale see below.

In 1788 The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy, written by Mrs Hannah Glasse gave advice of how to dress carrots. By far the most well known of the 18th century cookbook authors,  became the cookbook to have if you lived in Britain at the time. Carrot Pudding is here.

Art of cookery 1788 - how to dress carrots


A manuscript of recipes originated in England, between 1765 and 1830. (UPenn Ms. Codex 1038) Summary: Collection of recipes for desserts, meats, preserves, "soops," and condiments, including Indian-influenced dishes such as curry and pickles.

It included this unusual recipe for Carrot Puff


First records in Australia show it arrived in 1788 with the First Fleet and convicts planted 'Long Orange' carrots on Norfolk Island just two weeks after their arrival and gathered in their first harvest in October of that year. Along with the cabbage, it became an important food for the colonists.

Visit the Australia page here for more information. (opens in new window)

1789 - "Hortus Kewensis", a catalogue of plants cultivated in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London, compiled by William Aiton,  Gardener to His Majesty George lll records yellow and red  garden carrot, natives of England.

In 1791 William Lewis produced An Experimental History of the Materia Medica giving an account of the pharmaceutical properties and medicinal powers of plants. The book promoted the use of carrots as a diuretic, for the relief of stranguary (difficulty or pain in urinating). It indicated that wild carrots gave a stronger effect. It also recommends a poultice of garden carrot root to treat skin ulcers. He concludes by saying the "A marmalade of carrots has also been proposed as an addition to the stock of ships provisions, for preventing scurvy."

In 1793 the Catalogue of Flower Roots & Seeds of J Mason At the Orange Tree, 152 Fleet Street London listed Early Horn and Long Orange (Sandwich) carrot seeds.

1793 - Apiaceae - Daucus carota.(below left) From: Flora rustica: exhibiting accurate figures of such plants as are either useful or injurious in husbandry by Thomas Martyn.
London, F.P. Nodder, [1793], volume 3, plate 82. Hand-coloured engraving by Frederick Polydore Nodder

1796 - American Cookery The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables by Amelia Simmons - the first known American cookbook - 

"Carrots are managed as it respects plowing and rich ground, similarly to Parsnips. The yellow are better than the orange or red; middling fiz'd, that is, a foot long and two inches thick at the top end, are better than over grown ones; they are cultivated best with onions, sowed very thin, and mixed with other seeds, while young or six weeks after sown, especially if with onions on true onion ground. They are good with veal cookery, rich in soups, excellent with hash, in May and June.

jacob sturm carrot illustration

Frederick Nodder 1793 Jacob Sturm 1796

Carrot Pudding_.

A coffee cup full of boiled and strained carrots, 5 eggs, 2 ounces sugar and butter each, cinnamon and rose water to your taste, baked in a deep dish without paste, 1hour."

The Soldier’s Friend, 1798, .A British army manual sang the praises of soup for weary troops.

"Nothing is so agreeable and at the same time so wholesome to a soldier, after a fatiguing and perhaps wet march, as some warm soup. The use of broth or soup is particularly advantageous after great fatigue, because, on these occasions, the digestive organs are weakened and less liable to bear solid food than at other times."

The manual went on to enumerate the items usually available for the army mess’s soup kettle. Among these were cabbage, carrots, parsnips, onion, and potatoes.

Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen, Jacob Sturm und Johann Georg Sturm (1796) (above right)


By the 1800's horticultural growers were producing roots of a colossal size. Some were two feet in length with a girth of twelve inches and weighing four pounds each. Carrots were widely cultivated in the walled gardens of country estates. Growers were continually experimenting with strains to create the perfect "show roots". Come the 19th century, carrots were widely grown and began their descent into the ordinary alongside onions and potatoes. This certainly was not a bad thing, as obviously some foodstuffs have to take the role as workhorse recipe ingredients. And carrots certainly do it well, whether it's the leading taste in a soup, cake or refreshing drink, or bit-player in stock, salad or stew.

In 1803 Dr A Hunter wrote numerous essays in the series "Georgical Essays" detailing his experiments on the planting of carrots, their yield and uses on the farm.  He also detailed an experiment to make a useful alcoholic spirit from carrots. (full text available from Archive.org here)

Dr Hunter reported that "In 1773 I took 24 bushels of carrots and boiled them in 4 gallons of water. My design was to make an ale with a quantity of hops, it worked kindle and was treated as ale. It remained in the cask for 4 months whereupon it had a thick and muddy appearance and any attempt to fine it failed. The taste much resembled a malt liquor. I threw it in the still and after two distillations I obtained 4 gallons of clean proof spirit. It had however contracted the flavour of the hop.

From my gross calculation I am induced to think that from a good acre of carrots manufactured in this manner will leave a profit of forty pounds after all expenses and that the spirit is worth six shillings a gallon and not excised.

In 1806 William Mason contributed a 12 page report entitled "Experiments on the Culture of Carrots", to Nicholson's journal - Journal C. C. Meinhold & Söhne,Dresden c. 1850 - carrot - Wellcome Library Image of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts"The purport of this communication is to explain, with a degree of accuracy, the best method to produce carrots. In Suffolk, the culture of this highly valuable root has been carried on for ages. Various attempts have been made to extend the benefit more generally throughout the kingdom, but with little success."  The man them of the document is to explain in minute detail how carrots can be grown anywhere in the country and goes on to describe ideal environmental, propagation and maintenance conditions to guarantee a good crop.   "The season for sowing is middle of March to 12 April; the proper hoe should four inches by and one half inch and kept sharp." 

Having explained in some considerable details (though he describes it as concise!) the document then moves on to describe the use and application of carrots once cultivated. Overgrown and crooked carrots are extracted before the rest go off to market, the former are retained for home consumption "for which they will answer vas well as the others".   The ones retained were recommended as an extremely valuable feed to cart horses and other cattle, but not riding horses "nimble exercise causes them to be laxative and produce griping." It is interesting that even at this early stage the market preferred straight carrots

In 1808 the following recipe appeared in "Domestic Cookery" by Maria Rundell. It is interesting that she talks about the red part of the carrots and not the yellow.
 

Put some beef-bones, with four quarts of the liqour in which a leg of mutton or beef has been boiled, two large onions, a turnip, pepper, and salt, into a sauce-pan, and stew for three hours. Have ready six large carrots, scarped and cut thin; strain the soup on them, and stew them till soft enough to pulp through a hair sieve or coarse cloth: then boil the pulp with the soup, which is to be as thick as peas-soup. Use two wooden spoons to rub the carrot through. Make the soup the day before it is to be used. Add Cayenne. Pulp only the red part of the carrot, and not the yellow.

In 1811 Frenchman, Nicholas Appert introduced the art of preserving and described means of preserving carrots in glass jars. Either simply scalded and half boiled in water with salt, or prepared as soup, ready to eat out of the bottle. Appert said "“henceforth, everybody will be able to preserve the treasures nature bestows on us in one season and enjoy them in the sterile season when she refuses them.”  (The Art of Preserving all kinds of Animal and Vegetable Substances 1811).

1813 - The Duke of Bedford promoted an act of Parliament to clarify the rules applicable to the use of Covent Garden Market in London. It established his right to collect tolls and a schedule to the Act contained a scale of the tolls which might be charged in the different parts of the market known as the casual cart stands. Here is the toll for "Carts containing wholly or principally carrots".


1814 - The English Physician enlarged , N Culpepper 1814 had this to say:
 

Read Full extract showing what Culpepper said about carrots here. (pdf)

A Family Herbal  - an account of the medicinal properties of British and Foreign plants – 1814.  Robert John Thornton, MD, London reported that the seeds of wild Carrots had a warm and not disagreeable taste, and are esteemed as stomachic and diuretic, whereas the domestic seeds were described as carminative and diuretic. This work also talks about the uses of carrots in a poultice to ease sores. see Museum page about poultices page here.

1825 saw the publication of the encyclopaedia of Gardening by John Claudius Loudon which described in great depth the practices for the successful cultivation of carrots. It mentions that the perfect manure for a carrot field is "half for the dunghill and half from the merde (collected from the privies!), ploughed in and the surface made smooth so that the seeds can be planted in April, covered with a harrow."

1830 - The Botanic physician :being a compendium of the practice of physic, upon botanical principles, containing all the principal branches necessary to the study of medicine ... together with a variety of useful recipes, Elisha Smith. This gave guidance on the medicinal use of Wild Carrot seeds and cultivated roots:

1831 "A Guide to the orchard and kitchen garden, an account of the most valuable vegetables grown in Great Britain" written by George Lindley of the Royal Horticultural Society, lists the varieties of carrots grown at the time.

1833 - Wild ancestors and the modern carrot - In the days before the laws of heredity were properly understood, it used to be thought that if you grew wild carrots in your garden long enough, they would eventually turn into cultivated carrots, NOT SO!

The French botanist and horticulturist M Vilmorin-Andrieux reported in a paper to the Royal Horticultural Society in London that in six years from 1833, starting with wild seed from white rooted plants, he had managed to grow thicker, biennial , red rooted carrots, but they remained course, forked and not very tasty.

Vilmorin claimed to have produced a viable, cultivated carrot from wild plants in just a few generations. The experiment was never repeated and it is thought that the "wild" plants used had previously been hybridised in nature with cultivated carrots. (Source Banga 1957)

His partial success had nothing to do with cultivation and everything to do with the wild carrots gene pool that enabled him to fix the genomes he selected. He simply selected seed from biennial, red rooted variations. So he could not lay claim to be the founder of modern carrot, as many writers suggest.

Vilmorin produced "The Vegetable Garden" in 1856 and it became one of the major resources for botanists and others interested in garden plants.

Some images of the carrots varieties which Vilmorin described (and were probably the original orange carrot varieties developed in Holland):

 

Vilmorin 1856 early half long nantes carrot

Vilmorin 1856 English Horn carrot

Vilmorin 1856 Dutch Horn carrot

Vilmorin 1856 half long danvers carrot

Carrot, pumpkin a.o. / Album Vilmorin

Botany / Charts: - Pale orange carrot, yellow pumpkin, early red beet, Freneuse beet Alsatian beet, purple aubergine, red mangold beet, onion, potato. -

Colour lithograph, by Elisa Champin (died 1871). Plate 6, 1856, from: Album Vilmorin, Les Plantes Potageres, Paris (Vilmorin-Andrieux & Cie.) 1850-1895. Paris, Museum National d'Histoire Natur.

 

Vilmorin Poster Pale Orange Carrot 1856

By 1885 Vilmorin's catalogue was increased -

The Victorians had a recipe to destroy crickets – a paste of flour, powdered arsenic, and scraped carrots, placed near their habitations. This was developed because it was discovered that crickets were very fond of carrots. (Magazine of domestic economy, volume iv, 1839)

The Penny Satirist (London, England), Saturday, June 29, 1839; pg. 4; Issue 115, reported as follows (left)

J E Carter 1837 wrote The botanic physician, or, Family medical adviser: being an improved system, found on correct physiological principles : comprising a brief view of anatomy, physiology, pathology, hygieine [sic], or art of preserving health : a materia medica, exclusively botanical, containing a description of more than two hundred and thirty of the most valuable vegetable remedies : to which is added a dispensatory, embracing more than two hundred recipes for preparing and administering medicine : the diseases of the United States, with their symptoms, causes, cures, and means of prevention : likewise, a treatise on the diseases peculiar to women and children. (extract above right)


The value of the sugar content in carrots was becoming more recognised and valued. The Rural Cyclopedia written by Rev John Wilson in 1847 in Edinburgh “Communicates a thorough knowledge of farming, a general knowledge of gardening and a very considerable knowledge of the natural sciences and of general country affairs.” , talked about the creation of an alcoholic spirit from carrots as shown below. Nevertheless the main use for carrots was as animal fodder and particularly recommended as a medicine for horses, given to aid breathlessness, chronic cough, poor skin, to expel wind and given to sick or idle horses in place of corn. "There is none better are perhaps even as good".

The culinary uses of carrots for soups, for stews, for haricots, for boiling whole with beef, and for other methods of cookery, are too well known to require any remark. The availableness of carrots for the manufacture of sugar has already been noticed. The expressed juice of carrots, in consequence of the large proportion of sugar it contains, yields, after fermentation, and through the process of distillation, so large a quantity of spirituous liquor as twelve gallons of spirit fro every ton of carrots.

By 1849 the seeds catalogues were expanding their range - Early Scarlet Horn Long Orange Fine Surrey Parsnip (!) - Hollow Crown Altringham White (for agricultural) - Catalogue of John Kernan

In 1850 Miss Leslie's "Lady's New Receipt Book" gave a useful guide for small and large families containing directions for cooking, preserving and pickling.
 

TO STEW CARROTS. Half-boil the carrots; then scrape them nicely, and cut them into thick slices. Put them into a stew-pan with as much milk as will barely cover them, a very little salt and pepper, and a sprig or two of chopped parsley. Simmer them till they are perfectly tender, but not broken. When nearly done, add a piece of fresh butter rolled in flour. Send them to table hot. Carrots require long cooking.

The common wild-ducks, teal, &c., should always be parboiled with a large carrot in the body to extract the fishy or sedgy taste. On tasting this carrot before it is thrown away, it will be found to have imbibed strongly that disagreeable flavour.

TO KEEP CARROTS, PARSNIPS, BEETS, AND SWEET POTATOES. These should all be housed before the first frost. Range them side by side, and bury them in dry sand ; a bed of sand at the bottom ; another between each layer of the vegetables, and a thick sand covering for the whole. When wanted for use, begin at one end, and draw them out in regular order, and not out of the middle till you come to it.

1852 - A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes, by Charles Elmé Francatelli

No. 113. Vegetable Porridge. 

Scrape and peel the following vegetables:—six carrots, six turnips, six onions, three heads of celery, and three parsnips; slice up all these very thinly, and put them into a two-gallon pot, with four ounces of butter, a handful of parsley, ditto of chervil, and a good sprig of thyme, and fill up with water or pot liquor, if you happen to have any; season with pepper and salt, and put the whole to boil very gently on the fire for two hours; at the end of this time the vegetables will be done to a pulp, and the whole must be rubbed through a colander with a wooden spoon, and afterwards put back into the pot and stirred over the fire, to make it hot for dinner.

1860 - "The Habits of Good Society" commented - "There are many ways of dressing potatoes and carrots, which last are a vegetable much neglected at English tables, but when quite young, and dressed with butter in the French fashion, a delicious eatable, and a preventive of jaundice, which should recommend them strongly to professional diners-out.

1861 - saw the publication of Mrs Beeton's "Book of Household Management" arguably the most famous cookery writer in British history. she writes three pages on carrots and carrot recipes, how to boil, dress, stew and  slice carrots. she describes their origin,  the constituent parts of carrots and advice on how to collect seeds. She said "Several species of carrots are cultivated,—the red, the yellow, and the orange. Those known as the Crecy carrots are considered the best, and are very sweet. The carrot has been classed by hygienists among flatulent vegetables, and as difficult of digestion."   Here is how she describes the nutritional value. Read anl extract from Mrs Beeton's cookbook here. (pdf) (full Mrs Beeton's Book on line here)

Mrs Beeton Picture of New Carrots

New Carrots - "NUTRITIVE PROPERTIES OF THE CARROT - Sir H. Davy ascertained the nutritive matter of the carrot to amount to ninety-eight parts in one thousand; of which ninety-five are sugar and three are starch. It is used in winter and spring in the dairy to give colour and flavour to butter; and it is excellent in stews, haricots, soups, and, when boiled whole, with salt beef. In the distillery, owing to the great proportion of sugar in its composition, it yields more spirit than the potato. The usual quantity is twelve gallons per ton." Carrot Image from Mrs Beeton

1861 - The Cultivator, monthly journal published in the USA, for the farm and garden dedicated to agricultural and rural improvement, by Luther Tucker & Son reported - "Will it pay to raise carrots for feeding stock, is a question often asked. It don't pay, is an assertion often made. Brother farmers, it does pay, and I will tell you how. It pays in the extra amount of food raised for a given amount of land and labour. I have not failed to raise but once in 12 years, a good crop of roots, mostly carrots, and have found them to pay me better than any crop that I can raise for cattle, sheep and horses. They give very rich milk and improve butter and are a healthy food for all animals"  Extract from a Carroty Exhortation - letter published in the journal. See image of the letter here.

US Civil War (1861-65) - Coffee was by far the most popular beverage in the North and South and the US Army went to great efforts to endure that soldiers always had coffee beans. However in the South coffee became almost nonexistent early in the war and substitutes had to be found, including roasting acorns, corn, dandelion roots and carrot root.  None were really satisfactory.  One of the most reviled rations were the small cubes of dried carrots, onions, and celery distributed to both armies. Known as desiccated vegetables, these cubes were supposed to provide a reliable and portable source of fibre and vitamins. But the soldiers regarded as little more than bird food, and soon the cubes were called by a new name: “desecrated vegetables.” 

Ernst Benary (1819-1893) was a German entrepreneur who started a successful seed breeding business, which his descendants still run today. He produced a series of 28 botanical plates in 1867, this one has been selected by the RHS for their collection.

Carrottes Fourragere - Forage Carrots - Lithograph from 1871

In 1868 Charles Dickens wrote in his weekly literary magazine "All Year Round" -

French cooks in their versatile invention and restless desire to please and delight give strange and striking names to their new dishes. They have “The Soup of the Good Woman” and above all, “The Potage a la Jambe du Bois (The Soup of the Wooden Leg).” But the wooden leg is an after ingredient.

Like most receipts of the first class, this one is horribly expensive; but, like most other expensive recipes, it is just as good made more economically. Take a wooden leg—no, that is afterwards. Procure a shin of beef and put it in a pot, with three dozen carrots, a dozen onions, two dozen pieces of celery, twelve turnips, a fowl, and two partridges. It must simmer six hours. Then get two pounds of fillet of veal: stew it, and pour the soup over the meat. Add more celery; then mix bread and eventually serve up the soup with the shin bone (the real wooden leg) emerging like the bowsprit of a wreck from the sea of vegetables.


The Danvers carrot is a true American heirloom, originated from market gardens in Danvers, MA. and introduced in 1871 (USA history, read more here)

Gentlemen in Teheran in the 1870's took carrots stewed in sugar as an aphrodisiac to increase the quality and quantity of sperm!

Joseph Banks the eminent botanist noted that carrots cultivated in Sandy, Bedfordshire were transported by mule to neighbouring areas, where growing conditions were less favourable.

All modern day carrots are directly descended from Dutch-bred carrots. The familiar vegetable with its thick sweet tasting root, comes from a natural variety of "Queen Anne's Lace" named Daucus Carota variety sativus (Sativus means cultivated) similar to dill, but with bright white umbrella - shaped flower clusters.  Learn all about the Wild Carrot - Queen Anne's Lace here.

Botanischer Bilder-Atlas (1884) nach De Candolle's Natürlichem Pflanzensystem, Carl Hoffmann (image below left)

carl hoffman 1884

These two are reproductions of a paintings by the Swedish botanist C. A. M. Lindman (1856–1928), taken from his book(s) Bilder ur Nordens Flora (first edition published 1901–1905.

Original book source: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany

Carl Axel Magnus Lindman (1856-1928) Carrot - Morot

Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany

In 1896 Rev Walter James Hoffman MD wrote this article about popular superstitions which appeared in the US magazine “Popular Science Monthly”.

A good selection of carrots was advertised in Everitt's Catalogue of Celebrated Seeds (US) from 1896 - the following text gave more detailed descriptions of the varieties:

Early French Forcing—The earliest variety, largely grown for forcing purposes; globe shaped root of an orange red color.

Early Scarlet Horn—Best for early planting out of doors. Tops small, coarsely divided; roots top shaped, surface dented, skin orange red.

Ox-Heart—This new carrot conies from France. It is intermediate in length between the half-long varieties and the Short Horn, but much thicker than the latter, attaining at the top 3 or 4 inches in diameter. It is of fine quality for table use, and deserves general cultivation.

Half-Long Scarlet Nantes—Tops medium; roots cylindrical, smooth, bright orange; flesh orange, be- coming yellow in center, but with no distinct core; of the finest quality. This variety is extensively used in France for culinary purposes, and only needs to be known to supersede the coarser sorts for garden culture.

New Chantenay—This new half-long slump-root- ed carrot is one of the most productive varieties known, has an extra large shoulder, is easily dug, and is in every way desirable. It is very smooth, fine in texture, and of a beautiful rich orange color. Well worthy of cultivation.

Danvers Half-Long Orange—A most excellent variety for all soils. It will yield the greatest bulk with smallest length of roots of any variety, 20 to 30 tons being no unusual crop per acre.

Red Saint Vallery—A large, beautiful Carrot, of a rich, deep orange red color. The roots grow very straight and smooth, from ten to twelve inches long. Very fine quality for table use, and very productive.

Large White Belgian— Grows one-third cut of the ground; immense yielder; large size ; easily gathered; very suitable for stock. Improved Long Orange—Long roots, good yielder. Good for table or stock. We offer the best strain of this fine variety.

Giant Victoria—This is the Goliath among the carrot family. Under rich manuring it will grow to be nearly the size of an average mangold wurzel.

Everitts Seeds Catalogue 1896

This extract from the Kings American Dispensary in 1898 shows that a carrot poultice was recommended - "Preparation.-Take of garden carrots, scraped, 4 ounces, Indian meal (corn meal), 1 ounce, boiling water, a sufficient quantity to form a cataplasm of the proper consistence. Action and Medical Uses.-This will be found a valuable application to indolent and gangrenous ulcers, and painful tumours."

The discovery of vitamins in the 19th century, and more particularly of vitamin A, increased the appreciation of the carrot in the every day diet, as it could help prevent night blindness. For this same reason, during the Second World War, British pilots were given large amounts of carrots in their diet. Vitamin A is also good for nails, hair and skin. It has been recognised as having proven nutritional properties from the very early days. See the Nutrition pages for more information.

Next page - 1900 to date.


The carrot is one of the most important vegetables in the western world.
The simple, wild tap root eaten by our Neolithic ancestors has come a very long way!.

Reference material is here.

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