Carrots History - The New World and USA

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History of the Carrot - the New World and mainly USA

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 date   - Science & Enlightenment - the modern carrot evolves

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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 


Wild Carrot alongside domesticated

The New World - Carrots arrived before the Mayflower. European voyagers carried the carrot to America soon after discovery of the New World.  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. 

1565 - It is thought that the cultivated European carrot was found growing on Margarita Island, off the coast of Venezuela, in 1565, as shown by Sir John Hawkins reference to it in the account of his voyage. The narrative of this voyage is by John Sparke, one of the members of the expedition.

His second slave trade voyage which led to the permanent establishment of the English slave trade between Africa and the West Indies and departed from Plymouth, UK in October 1564  going to the coast of Guinea and the Indies  of Nova Spania (West Indies).   On the 16th March, 1565 they came across "an island called Maragarita".

Here is a summary of the account:

“Neere about this place, inhabited by certaine Indians …. they brought down to us which we bought for beades, pewter whistles, glasses, knives and other trifles, Potatoes; these were the most delicate rootes that may be eaten, and doe far exceede their passeneps or carets."

(source - John Spark, The Voyage Made by M. John Hawkins Esquire, 1565, Burrage, Henry S. (editor). Early English and French Voyages, Chiefly from Hakluyt Society, 1534-1608; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906, Pages 113-132. - The Hawkins Voyages by Clements R Markham 1878, issued by the Hakluyt Society of London - John Sparke of Plymouth, who sailed with Hawkins, wrote an account of the second slavery voyage. Sparke made reference, probably for the first time in English, to carets (carrots!) seen in the West Indies)

This account is disputed as some translations or interpretations show the word “our” rather than “their”;  “our” would indicate he was comparing them to the carrots grown back in England; “their” would suggest that carrots were already growing in Margarita Island.

By the 1600's carrots along with cabbages, onions, and garlic were growing in Mexico.

In 1598, Juan de Oñate, descendant of a wealthy mining family in Zacatecas, Mexico, won the contract to settle New Mexico. Oñate's expedition was a fully fledged colonising enterprise, and the introduction of new animals and plants was an important part of the plan. Various accounts credit Oñate with the introduction to Mexico of carrots (amongst other vegetables and a variety of herbs and spices).

North America, particularly the parts that would become the Thirteen Colonies, got its carrots somewhat later, with the arrival of the fist English settlers in Virginia in1609.

It was grown by the struggling colonists of the first permanent English settlement in the New World, at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1609. They planted cucumbers at the same time. English carrots were first to be introduced into the colonies accompanying colonists to Jamestown in 1609. and early Pilgrims to Massachusetts no later than 1629 where they “grew bigger and sweeter” than anything found in England. Dutch Mennonites brought orange and scarlet carrots with them into Pennsylvania, from whence they slowly spread through the rest of the colonies.  Strictly the settlement was actually 1607 -
 

According to the Williamsburg site  - In 1606, England’s King James I granted a charter to a group known as the Virginia Company, whose mission it was to establish an English settlement in the Chesapeake region of the New World. In 1607, three ships landed at Cape Henry, Virginia, and proceeded up the river to establish the first permanent English settlement in America. To honor the king who sent them, the explorers named the river the James, and the settlement Jamestown.

Domestic Carrots escaped herb plots of the Pilgrims and easily naturalized as a widespread weed, named Queen Annes Lace by the Americans. Mohegan and Delaware Native Americans later used the flowers to prepare infusions that they used to treat diabetes.

In the colonial period and early republic the long orange carrot, England’s standard root, grew universally in American fields. The French white and purple carrots were specimen plants cultivated by experimental gardeners exclusively. In the 1850s the White Belgian and Scarlet varieties enjoyed a vogue among hotel cooks. After the Civil War, the Danvers, the Altringham, and the Early French Forcing Carrot came into wide cultivation.

Some early references here:
 

1610 - A True Declaration of the Estate of the Colonie in Virginia. - What should I speake of cucumbers, muske melons, pompions, potatoes, parsneps, carrets, turnups, which our gardens yeelded with little art and labour.

For Roots, there is,

      Potatoes, Parsnips, Onyons, Sparragras, Carrots, Turneps, Hartichokes, all sorts of Herbes for Physick or Pot; all which grow without any such trouble as is taken for them England, and for delicacie farre exceeding the best Gardens here in England.

(first hand accounts of Virginia 1649 )

A Perfect Description of VIRGINIA - "20 That they have Roots of severall kindes, Potatoes, Sparagus, Carrets, Turnips, Parsnips, Onions, and Hartichokes."

In 1612 "Good Newes from Virginia" was sent to the Counsell and Company of Virginia, resident in England.
 

From Alexander Whitacker, The Minister of Henrico in Virginia.

"Our English seeds thrive very well heere, as Pease, Onions, Turnips, Cabbages, Coleflowers, Carrets, Time, Parseley, Hysop, Marioram, and many other whereof I have tasted and eaten."

1614 - "A True Discourse of the present State of Virginia, and the successe of the affaires there till the 18 of June, 1614". - Not are these provicion of bread, flesh, and fish, al we have for sustenation of mans life, behold more change and variety of foode, which our soile and climate affordeth, Carrats, Parsneps, Turneps, Raddish

By 1629 the Pilgrims, or some of those who followed the first settlers closely, were growing carrots in Massachusetts. The Pilgrims themselves may have introduced it there.  The plants were grown from seeds brought by the colonists and very soon the plants escaped into the wild. Crow native Americans used the escaped wild carrot as a diuretic and stimulant to bring on menstruation.

Further carrot references from the new world include Berkeley, A Perfect Description of Virginia (1649), Bannister's Natural History (1681) and Glover's An Account of Virginia (1688). By the 18th century the orange carrot is the primary garden carrot of Virginia, the most common sorts being the Long Orange and the Horn.


We also know that this root crop was adopted by Native Americans, because it was listed among the Native American crops destroyed by General John Sullivan's army in 1779.

In forays against the Iroquois in upper New York State in 1779 Gen. John Sullivan's forces destroyed stores of carrots as well as parsnips. 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. General John Sullivan

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 salsify 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).


The Shakers arrived in the US in the late 1770's bringing with them their recipes from the old country. Carrot Jam was a favourite:

8 good sized carrots, 1 lemon, 2 oranges, 2 tbs of sugar and 1 pinch of salt.  In a medium saucepan with heavy bottom cook carrots, drain and mash. Put fruit through a food chopper and add pulp to carrot mash, along with sugar and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. When mixture reaches desired thickness, remove from heat. Pour into sterilised glass jars and seal with paraffin.

From "old Shaker Recipes" Bear Wallow Books.

The Old Farmer's Almanac, first published in 1792 contained many Colonial recipes, involving carrots, here is typical one based on an English type pudding:

Carrot Pudding -1 Onion chopped,  pinch of salt, 3 large carrots shredded, 1 cup of water, 1 beaten egg, 1/2 cup cracker crumbs, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup of milk, two pinches of cinnamon; salt & pepper to taste.

Combine the onion, salt, carrots and water in a saucepan. Bring to the bil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain. Combine with remaining ingredients and turn into greased 1 quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until puffed and bubbly. Serves 4.

Amelia Simmons 1796 - Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery 1796 describes yellow, red and orange carrots, preferring the yellow of “middling siz’d that is, a foot long and two inches at the top end”. Carrots were easily transported, and they became popular vegetables with truck farmers, who brought them into urban markets from outlying areas by the end of the colonial period.

American Cookery, the first known American cookbook, an elegantly simple recipe that requires some guesswork and estimation, but nothing that can hurt so good for experimentation:

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

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 salsify and carrots…which is a very ample provision for my table and indeed, more than sufficient."

Thomas Jefferson grew a variety of different carrots in his gardens at Monticello. In 1814 he produced 18 bushels of carrots. 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 salsify 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).

Read a more complete account of Root Crops in the New World, from Colonial Williamsburg, here. (note: This has not been updated for some time, but history does not change, only our interpretation of it!)

In Philadelphia, Bernard McMahon records in American Gardener's Calendar (1806); "There are several varieties, of the garden carrot; differing in the colour of their roots; such as orange, white, yellow and dark red. There is another variety called the horn-carrot, differing in the form of its root, the lower part terminating in a round, abrupt manner, and not tapering off gradually, like the others; this is the earliest sort, is of an orange colour, and very delicious; and should always been sown for the a first crop. The long orange carrot, is the best for a principle crop."

Before the middle of the 17th century it was known in Brazil.

John Prince, “The Culture of Carrots,” American Farmer 4, 1 (April 5, 1822), p. 6.

“I have always used for field culture, the common orange carrot, and the seed should be thoroughly winnowed and made as clean a parsley seed. Success in cultivating this vegetable depends entirely on early attention and thinning, weeding and hoeing – the plants should not be left for a crop neaerer than 3 or 4 inches and should at all times be kept free fromn weeds.

Carrots grow more in October than any previous month. I gather them by cutting off the tops near, but not quite the crown of the plant with a sharp hoe. They are greedily eaten by oxen, cows, sheep or swine. Then I rin a plough deep drawn by a pair of oxen as close to a row as can be directed, when they are seen standing very regularly they are easily pulled by boys and thrown in heaps till carted off. I think more than half the labor is saved and the earth is left in good order for next season.

Through this good management a yield of 500 to 700 bushels per acre is easily achieved."

In 1828 Robert Bloomfield reported in the New England farmer (Volume v.7) the following carrots were grown: Altringham, Early Horn (for table),  Blood Red, Lemon and Long Orange.

In 1832 Lydia M Child wrote American Frugal Housewife "Dedicated to those not afraid of economy" and included these carrot items:
 

CARROT PIE

Carrot pies are made like squash pies. The carrots should be boiled very tender, skinned and sifted. Both carrot pies and squash pies should be baked without an upper crust, in deep plates. To be baked an hour, in quite a warm oven.

Salt fish mashed with potatoes, with good butter or pork scraps to moisten it, is nicer the second day than it was the first. The fish should be minced very fine, while it is warm. After it has got cold and dry, it is difficult to do it nicely. Salt fish needs plenty of vegetables, such as onions, beets, carrots, &c.

In 1839 the Kentucky Housewife Lettice Bryan suggested "that carrots may be cooked in every respect like parsnips."   A repetition of the advice given by Roman cooks some 1600 years earlier!

In 1851 - A Housekeeper, The American Matron; or, Practical and Scientific Cookery (Boston & Cambridge: James Munroe & Co., 1851), p. 100.  - Carrots are not a favorite vegetable for the table. They are used in broths and soups, but chiefly sent to table as a garnish, or an accompaniment to salt fish. In summer about an hour will cook them, in winter an hour and half. The carrot and parsnip are highly nutritive. This book included a recipe for carrot pudding.

In 1860 the Encyclopaedia of Gardening by J C Loudon (Harvard) reported the following varieties as most common in the US: Common Early Horn, Early Short Horn, Long Red Horn, Long Orange, Long Red (Surrey), Long White, Long Yellow, Purple, Yellow and Altringham (green topped).

"The early Horn is the principal one used by gardeners for early crops, and the Long Orange or Altringham for main crops. The long red is generally used for agricultural purposes; the short yellow is a new sort, recently obtained from seed by M Vilmorin; and the violet is a large and exceedingly sweet variety sent to him from Spain."

Civil War recipes: receipts (modern day recipes) from the pages of Godey's lady's book  By John Spaulding. These recipes were selected from 1860’s period of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a hugely popular national magazine available in the period of the Civil War, and subsequently. It continued in various forms until 1898.

To Stew Carrots – 1860

Half boil the carrots, then scrape them nicely, and cut them into thick slices; put them into a stewpan, 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 the table hot. Carrots require long cooking. Parsnips and salsify may be stewed in the above manner, substituting a little chopped celery for the parsley.

Vegetable Curry – 1862

 Take carrots, turnips, celery, onions, some cucumbers and lettuce, cut small and simmer for a considerable time in water, Have ready some good gravy properly seasoned, and add the vegetables to it. When sufficiently stewed, mix in a piece of butter with flour to give it a proper thickness, a tablespoonful of curry-powder, and the juice of a small lemon. Give it a boil, and when serving up add a dessertspoonful of mushroom catsup. (chop mushrooms, sprinkle salt over each layer. Simmer, stirring often. Strain juice off and boil it with a little ginger. Add pepper. Use juice without adding water,)


Early Scarlet Horn Carrot

19th Century - No universally-cultivated vegetable enjoyed less regard as an ingredient of cuisine in 19th-century America than the carrot. The authors of cookbooks repeatedly observed that, “carrots are not a very favourite vegetable for the table. They are used in broths and soups, but chiefly sent to table as a garnish, or an accompaniment to salt fish.” Even the carrot’s defenders were compelled to notice that “this vegetable is but little used, except in soups; yet they are very palatable and healthy, containing a great amount of nutriment.” The distaste was for carrots themselves, not their mode of preparation, for the commonest way of cooking them—what some cookbooks designated “American style Carrots”—was to boil them soft and serve them with butter, as simple a rendering as might be conceived, aside from chewing them raw. No cookbook of prior 1900 recommended consuming uncooked carrots.

Why, then, did most gardens contain carrots? Because since time immemorial they stood foremost among the vegetables that livestock savored. Both tops and roots appealed. In New England, in early November, the farmer “cut off the tops, near, but not quite to the crown of the plant, with sharp hoes; they are greedily eaten by oxen, cows, sheep, and swine—then run a plough deep” to unearth the roots for use through the winter. Many argued that they were the most nutritious field crop for animals. “One bushel of carrots will yield more nourishment than two bushels of oats, or potatoes, and it is a remarkable fact, that horses will frequently leave oats to feed on carrots.” Because of the cost of growing grains, claims such as these found a wide welcome in the second quarter of the century. Experimentalists noted that it thrived when intercropped with flax seed, so that a field could yield two products simultaneously; furthermore, the vegetable did not leech the soil of nutriments as most grains did.

When planting carrots, care had to be taken that the soil was deeply plowed and free of stones. The small feathery seeds were planted by a dibble or drill eighteen inches apart on a still day, so wind did not blow the seed astray. Once seed had been deposited in the drill hole, the field hand used his foot to push soil into the hole and step on it to seal it. Because the carrot did not have natural predators that attacked it during the early stages of growth (such as the turnip fly for turnips), it enjoyed a relatively carefree cycle of growth. In the antebellum period cattle farmers frequently intercropped carrots with mangel wurtzel, a root vegetable rather like a coarse rutabaga, that also enjoyed great favor as animal feed.

In the colonial period and early republic the long orange carrot, England’s standard root, grew universally in American fields. The French white and purple carrots were specimen plants cultivated by experimental gardeners exclusively. In the 1850s the White Belgian and Scarlet varieties enjoyed a vogue among hotel cooks. After the Civil War, the Danvers, the Altringham, and the Early French Forcing Carrot came into wide cultivation.

Sources

1. A Housekeeper, The American Matron; or, Practical and Scientific Cookery (Boston & Cambridge: James Munroe & Co., 1851), p. 100. 2. Southern Planter 14, 9 (September, 1854), 271. 3. John Prince, “The Culture of Carrots,” American Farmer 4, 1 (April 5, 1822), p. 6. 4. “Carrots,” The Genesee Farmer 1, 6 (February 12, 1831).


Early Horn - Developed by Dutch plantsmen and introduced in about 1620, 'Early Scarlet Horn' carrots are one of the oldest vegetable varieties still in cultivation. Early on, seedsmen carried them to England, where they appeared on some of the first seed lists ever published in that country. Later, they crossed the Atlantic. Experts think they were one of the first two carrots grown in the U.S. Although the name of this carrot seems to suggest that it looks like a cow horn, the name actually has a different derivation. It shows that these carrots were originally from Hoorn, a town in Holland.

In 1889, Philadelphia seedsman I. V. Faust described the 'Early Scarlet Horn' carrot as "One of the best for table use and one of the most popular varieties grown for an early crop." Five years later, in 1894, J. A. Everitt's catalog called it the "best for planting out of doors." Like his colleagues, seedsman Wm. Henry Maule praised these carrots. In 1899, he named it "the best early table variety."

The Field and Garden Vegetables of America, by Fearing Burr, published in 1863 listed the following varieties grown in England and the US:

Altringham, Long Red Altringham, Early frame. early half-long scarlet. early horn, Flander's large pale scarlet,  Long orange, Long red, Belgian long yellow, Long surrey. Long white. New intermediate purple or blood red, Short white,  Studley white Belgian, White Belgian horn.

Long Red Belgian Carrot 1831 Early Horn Carrot 1831 Early Frame Carrot 1831 New Intermediate Carrot 1831
Long Red Belgian Early Horn Early Frame New Intermediate

Here's how the Williamsburg Museum describes the history of carrots in colonial times:-

The root crops known to colonial Virginians have their origins from throughout the world. Carrots came from both Europe and the Near East. Some crops, such as Radish, Carrots and Parsnip seem to be almost universal elements in the kitchen gardens of all classes of people because of their easy culture, keeping ability and nutritional value.

Carrots are introduced to Virginia with the first colonists. They are recorded by Whitacker, Good Newes from Virginia (1612), BerVilmorin Image of Danvers Carrotkeley, A Perfect Description of Virginia (1649), Bannister's Natural History (1681) and Glover's An Account of Virginia (1688). By the 18th century the orange carrot is the primary garden carrot of Virginia, the most common sorts being the Long Orange and the Horn. In Philadelphia, Bernard McMahon records in American Gardener's Calendar (1806); "There are several varieties, of the garden carrot; differing in the colour of their roots; such as orange, white, yellow and dark red. There is another variety called the horn-carrot, differing in the form of its root, the lower part terminating in a round, abrupt manner, and not tapering off gradually, like the others; this is the earliest sort, is of an orange colour, and very delicious; and should always been sown for the a first crop. The long orange carrot, is the best for a principle crop."

The carrot was equally important as a field crop for feeding livestock. The Complete Farmer, compiled by A Society of Gentlemen in 1769 records: “Mr. Billings observes, that the use of carrots for the winter feed of cattle has been long known and practiced in the eastern parts of Suffolk, where it is common to make carrots serve the same purpose turnips have many years done in most parts of the country of Norfolk…our intelligent farmer finds them a more certain crop, both for growth and duration, than turnips: the latter are exceedingly apt to fail, as well as rot, towards the spring, when most wanted.” In this county George Washington writes to Benjamin Fitzhugh Grymes, April, 10, 1787: “I am convinced that in a proper Soil, the culture of Carrots will be found very advantageous for feeding the farm horses, and every species of Stock…I am inclined to think that the rows of Carrots will yield five, 8, or I do not known but 10, bushels of Carrots for every one of Corn.”

While always a popular crop, Americans never develop the sophisticated taste for carrots that the Europeans do. In 1865 Fearing Burr records in Field and Garden Vegetables of America; "though not relished by all palates, carrots are extensively employed for culinary purposes." Henderson writes of carrots in Gardening for Profit (1867); "This may be classed more as a crop of the farm than the garden, as a far larger area is grown for the food of horses and cattle than for culinary purposes." (Williamsburg reference material here)

COLONIAL CARROT PECAN CAKE

1 1/4 c. oil, 2 c. sugar, 2 c. sifted flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. salt, 4 eggs, 3 c. grated raw carrots, 1 c. finely chopped pecans


Mix oil and sugar well. Sift dry ingredients and sift 1/2 into the sugar mixture. Blend and add second half alternately with eggs, mixing well after each addition. Mix in carrots, then pecans.

Pour into lightly oiled tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in pan. Frost with: 8 ounce cream cheese, 1 box powdered sugar, 1/2 stick butter, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.


The Danvers Carrot

Danvers carrot seed harvestOriginally an agricultural town, Danvers Massachusetts proved to be the originator of the true American carrot. Danvers was first listed in the US by Schlegal, Everett & Co in 1871.

Farmersdanvers carrot developed two breeds of vegetables: the Danvers Onion (origin of the "Onion town" nickname) and the Danvers Half-Long Carrot (also known as the True Danvers). This carrot was introduced by "market gardeners" in 1871. It was used to interplant with onion crops as a way to improve productivity of farm land. The carrots does well in heavy soil and grows a deep orange, 8 inches long and is nearly coreless.

A true heirloom variety!  Incidentally the onions would probably help to deter carrot fly which might have been in the minds of the farmers.

It was first marketed by the Burpee Seed Company in 1886, it is still recommended today. This variety has a conical shape, well-defined shoulders and tapering to a point at the tip. They are somewhat shorter than Imperator cultivars, but more tolerant of heavy soil. Danvers cultivars are often puréed as baby food.

It is said that Danvers carrots were specifically developed to cope with the rocky Danvers soil. However this report from the Danvers Herald, begs to differ:

danvers carrot seed packet 1900

Letter to Danvers Herald Dec 9, 1999 -

Besides the abundance of onions, many years ago the farmers of Danvers also became famous for their carrots. They were well known from Ferncroft Ridge to Faneuil Hall in Boston's market. But there became a problem. The Danvers carrots were growing too long to sell well in the market.

So some farmers from over on Locust Street got together with some other fellows from Hobart and Andover Streets and somehow they cam up with a hybrid carrot  about half as long as the old Danvers carrot. To this day, in vegetable seeds stores across the nation, look among the packaged seeds, and sure enough, you will see them, and I can attest that when they grow they are exactly half as long as the old 18 inchers.

So to lots of folks it's Oniontown but to some it is also Carrotown.

Danvers carrot seed packet

In 1867 James Gregory published a series of informational pamphlets on raising, keeping and feeding garden vegetables. The Carrot Pamphlet refers to the Danvers Carrot thus:

Danvers Carrot.  In the town of Danvers, Mass., the raising of Carrots on an extensive scale, has for years been quite a business – the farmers finding a large market in the neighbouring cities of Salem, Lynn and Boston. After years of experimenting they settled upon a variety which originated among them known in their locality as the “Danvers Carrot.”  It is in the form about midway between the Long Orange and Short Horn class, growing very generally with a stump root. The great problem in Carrot growing is to get the greatest bulk with the smallest length of root, and this is what the Danvers growers have attained in their Carrot.  Under their cultivation they raise from twenty to forty tons to the acre.  This Carrot is of a rich dark orange in colour very smooth and handsome and from its length, is easier to dig then the Long Orange. It is a first class Carrot for any soil.

The ABC of Trucking, Florida 1911 included this advice and diagram - Carrot grow to perfection here and take the same cultivation and fertiliser as Beet. They do not pay well, but there are times when they will pay if bunched and sold in lettuce hampers or barrels; but I would not advise anyone to plant them extensively for market. They are healthful  and make a fine vegetable for the home garden. They can be grown for the entire season with the exception of June, July and August.  Best varieties are Half Long Danvers, Chantenay and Coreless, a new variety.

 

A few Americans claim to have "invented" carrot cake in the early 20thC using recipes from "back home" - Germany, Russia, Poland etc. My mother was Polish and recalls her grandma teaching her about adding carrots (and other stuff) to cakes. So I suspect the eastern Europeans have had it from the 19thC at least. Of course country folk passed on these recipes through word of mouth so documentary evidence is sketchy.

According to Gil Marks in the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food”, the first appearance of the term “carrot cake” in an American source came from “The Neighborhood Cook Book” by the council of Jewish Women, published in Portland, Oregon in 1912 -
 

Carrot Cake From the Neighborhood Cook Book by the council of Jewish Women, Portland, Oregon One-half pound sugar, one-half pound almonds, blanched and chopped, one-half pound carrots, boiled only till they can be grated, juice and grated rind of one lemon, four eggs. Cream the yolks and sugar; whites beaten to snow, added last; add three or four bitter almonds; beat for one half hour before adding whites of eggs. Butter spring form and sprinkle with grated zweibach. Bake in a moderate oven one and one-quarter hours, till loosed from pan.

The Germans have a long tradition of cakes, torts etc and I would guess that would be a likely origin.  Read more on origin if carrot cake here.  And the progenitor of cake, Carrot Puddings here.

Danvers (Illinois) Township Home Bureau Unit Cook Book, 1921 -

CARROT PUDDING 1 pound grated carrots 3/4 lb. chopped suet 1/2 lb. raisins 1/2 lb. currants Steam 4 hours, sauce. 4 tablespoons sugar 8 tablespoons flour Spices to suit the taste Place in oven for 20 minutes. Serve with Sauce

Sauce - 1 cup butter 2 cups powdered sugar 1/2 cup wine Beat butter to cream. Add sugar gradually. When light add wine which has been heated. Place in bowl of water and stir until smooth. — Mrs. Wm. C. Allen

World Wars

Carrot played a major part in both World Wars and were extensively grown in US Victory Gardens.  Read more in the history page here.


Modern Overview of Carrot Breeding History in the United States

U.S. carrot breeding was initially based entirely on European carrot types with at least 15 seed catalogues selling carrots in the late 1700s into the 1800s. The 'Long Orange' and 'Horn' types were central to the first US carrots. . By the 1800s, short orange, yellow, white, and purple carrots were also available in seed catalogues and grown to some extent, although long and intermediate orange types apparently dominated the U.S. market. The seed catalogue entries show that by the mid- l800s purple carrots were no longer routinely available to U.S. growers and yellow carrots became less widely available by the late 1800's.

'Danvers' type appeared in the U.S. as a cultivar name in the 1890s and in the 1920s a new type, 'lmperator', was developed in the U.S. by Associated Seed Growers as a longer, thinner carrot for use in bunching.  See examples of root shapes hereUSDA food fact sheet here.


In 1940 the government produced “Descriptions of Types of Principal American Varieties of Orange Fleshed Carrot” which indicated that these varieties were the most common: 

French Forcing, probably a French development from the Early Horn type and first introduced into the US in 1861 by Thorburn as Extra Early Forcing,

Scarlet Horn, a very old type taking its name from the Netherlands town of Hoorn. The earliest English seedsmen list Early Horn and long Orange, and both were probably the first varieties imported into the US

Nantes, first appeared in the B K Bliss catalogue of 1870, other later catalogues show a more refined strain of older Half Long Stump Rooted variety developed in the vicinity of Nantes, France.

 Red Core Chantenay, was produced by continued selection of “red” or orange colored roots originally from the Chantenay variety. It was introduced to the seed trade in 1929 by C C Morse & Co.

Danvers, originaly an agricultural town, Danvers Massachusetts proved to be the originator of the true American carrot. Danvers was first listed in the US by Schlegal, Everett & Co in 1871.

 Imperator, is a result of a cross between Nantes and Chantenay. It was introduced in 1928 by Associated Seed Growers, Inc.

 Long Orange appears in the earliest English printed records and the long yellow, long white and long purple types were known to the ancients.

 Oxheart, or Guerande is an introduction from France and was first listed in the US in 1884 by W Atlee Burpee & Co and by James JH Gregory.

This document went in much detail about the different characteristics of each variety, examining the shape and colour of the roots

'Imperator' type cultivars have been the mainstay of U.S. commercial production since the 1950s. The strong tops, clean attachment and tapered storage root made the type very conducive for bunching, mechanical harvesting and use in semi-arid production sites.

Some Adverts from the 1950's

Fresh carrots marketed in the U.S.A. before 1950 were displayed along with their tops. This practice has largely been replaced by topping carrots and displaying them in plastic bags, a practice that allows carrots to be kept fresh longer.

The 'lmperator' style has proven to be very adapted to the shift in market uses over the years; from the bunching of the 1950s, to the cellophane bag packaging "cello" of the 1960s to present and the fresh cut and peel "baby" style from the 1990s to present.

By the mid 1980s, most of the carrot production in the U.S. and Canada used 'Imperator' hybrids for fresh market and this type now accounts for 85% of the U.S. carrot crop by production area, and 95% by crop value (http://www.nass.usda.gov/).

By the early 1980s, private investment in agricultural technology was rapidly increasing and seed company breeding programs, including carrots, were greatly expanded. With better understanding and appreciation of quality attributes in carrots such as carotene content, flavour and sugars, newer lmperator hybrids began to incorporate consumer quality traits into hybrids that also had agronomically sound traits to benefit the grower.

When the new produce phenomena of fresh cut and conveniently packaged vegetables began to grow in the late 1980s and early 1990s, carrots were at the forefront of this market. The California carrot production industry developed a high value "cut and pee!" or "baby" carrot product using higher quality, more slender 'Imperator' type hybrids that was immensely popular at retail. Mostly due to this new convenient way to purchase fresh carrots, per capita consumption grew significantly in a matter of a few years, accounting for a significant portion of the fresh carrot market today. Much of this increase was due to the increased consumption by children.

Organic production of commercial carrots in California has grown very rapidly since 2000, with a large amount of product delivered throughout the North American retail market. The industry has found that several available hybrids work well for organic production in the semi-arid western U.S. as carrots. As in conventional production, the main criteria in organics are good eating quality, solid disease resistance and economical yield. Carrot use has also expanded as a key component in juice mixtures. Interest by consumers, growers, and the seed industry in "unusual" coloured yellow, purple, red, and white carrots may provide an avenue for the development of other new markets.

Baby cut carrot were invented in the USA in the late 1980's - read the full story in a separate page of the Carrot Museum here.


sources - USDA Publication Simon et all -

Philipp W. Simon, USDA/ARS, Roger E. Freeman      Nunhems seeds, Jairo V. Vieira and Leonardo S. Boiteux,  National Center for Vegetable Crops Research,Mathilde Briard and Thomas Nothnagel, Genetic and Horticulture Research Unit,  Barbara Michalik,  Kwon'Agricultural University of Krakow and Young-Seok National Institute of Highland Agriculture

Carrot Museum reference material here


Current US Carrot Statistics, click here

Home Grown Facts for the United States

California ranks first in the United States in the production of carrots. California produces about 70,000 acres of carrots annually.  Baby peeled carrots account for more than 35 percent of California’s carrot production and 70 percent of the total acreage. Kern County is the state’s largest producer of carrots with 75 percent of the state’s acreage.

There are four main carrot-producing regions in California: the Southern San Joaquin Valley/Cuyama Valley (Kern and Santa Barbara counties), the Southern Desert (Imperial and Riverside counties), the Central Coast (Monterey County) and the High Desert (Los Angeles County).

Demand declined to an estimated 9.6 pounds per person in 2009. (Carrots reached a high of 18.2 pounds per person in 1997.) The majority of consumption is attributable to demand for fresh carrots, which dipped to 7.4 pounds per person in 2009. Demand for processing carrots (including freezing and canning) has been variable and substantially less than fresh market consumption. The per person consumption of carrots used for freezing and canning in 2009 was 1.4 and 0.8, respectively.

Factors influencing consumer demand for carrots include convenience, taste and health consciousness given that carrots are a good source of vitamins and minerals and have been shown to contain cancer-preventing agents (ERS 2003). In this century, carrots have largely been used as a popular cooking vegetable, salad item, snack food and raw vegetable. In addition, value-added products including peeled baby carrots and other fresh-cut items have gained in popularity (ERS 2007).

Production In 2009 22.2 million cwt of U.S. carrots for fresh consumption were harvested from 69,400 acres (NASS 2010). Acreage for fresh carrot production has decreased from 113,660 acres in 1996 to the current level.

The top three fresh carrot producing states in 2009 were (in order) California, Michigan and Texas. California accounted for 87 percent of all the fresh market production. U.S. carrot farmers produced 329,440 tons of carrots for processing from 12,530 harvested acres in 2009 (NASS 2010).

Processing acreage decreased from 25,720 acres in 1996. Washington, Wisconsin, California and Minnesota were the top producers of carrots for the processing market. Washington, the top producing state in the nation in 2009, accounted for 28 percent of production. Wisconsin, the second ranked state, contributed another 26 percent. The United States was the third largest producer of carrots, just behind Russia. Both distantly followed China, which produced 34 percent of the world’s carrots (ERS 2008).

Production Areas and Seasons California has four main production areas for carrots (Daucus carota): the southern San Joaquin Valley and the Cuyama Valley (Kern and Santa Barbara Counties); the southern desert (Imperial and Riverside Counties); the high desert (Los Angeles County); and the central coast (Monterey County).

Carrots are grown year-round in California. In the southern San Joaquin and Cuyama Valleys, carrots are planted from December to March for harvest from May to July and from July to September for harvest from November to February. In the southern desert, they are planted from August to February for harvest from December to June. In the high desert they are planted from April to July for harvest from August to December. On the central coast, they are planted from December to August for harvest from April to January.

Exports  - In 2009 U.S. exports of carrots totalled 2.4 million cwt, an 11 percent decline from 2008 (ERS 2010). Nearly 90 percent of U.S. exports of carrots were shipped to Canada. The next largest market for the United States was Mexico and the Netherlands, each accounting for less than 5 percent of the total value of exports.

Imports  - According to the USDA, more than 135,400 MT of fresh carrots and nearly 3,550 MT of carrots for freezing were imported in 2009 (FAS 2009). Canada was the leading source of U.S. fresh carrots, accounting for 63 percent of U.S. fresh carrot imports, followed by Mexico, which accounted for 32 percent. Israel was the top producer of imported frozen carrots in 2009, followed by Mexico. Combined, the two countries accounted for 55 percent of the frozen carrots imported that year.

(Information Sources)

Full US carrot production statistics can be found at the ERS department of USDA

Statistics by Subject, National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS), USDA.

Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), Foreign Ag Service (FAS), USDA, 2009.

Statistical Database-Agriculture, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), United Nations.

U.S. Carrot Statistics, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA, 2009.

U.S. per capita food availability, ERS, USDA, 2008.

Vegetables and Melons Outlook, ERS, USDA.

Vegetables Annual Summary, NASS, USDA)


Holtville California calls itself "Carrot Capital of the World", with some justification!

More than 103 years ago, a hardy group of pioneers found their way to the desert of California’s Imperial Valley where they helped settle a new Improve Long Orange Carrot Seed Packet 1900imperial irrigation district off the Colorado River. From the sand and silt of the desert they coaxed fields of broccoli, carrots, lettuce and onions.

A century later that tradition endures with Carrots as the specialty. Holtville has gained fame as “Carrot Capital of the World” and celebrates that heritage annually at the Holtville Carrot Festival and Parade. It’s an exciting time of the year when everyone gets out their best antiques to celebrate. A 95-year-old John Deere gas engine provides power to crank an ice cream freezer. Decades-old horse-drawn farm wagons alternate with parade floats and antique cars. In between are tractors of every vintage. School bands practice in the line-up as horses and riders wait nearby.

A large forklift bearing two enormous pallets leads the procession. On the pallets is an artful arrangement showcasing the valley’s bounty: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. A school band, the honour guard and a few floats pass, followed by the businesslike beat of a 2-cylinder John Deere tractor representing the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources Desert Research and Extension Center, El Centro. The 1936 John Deere Model D, a parade regular since its restoration in 1990, is at the head of the antique tractor contingent. Since much of our farming is done by International Harvester and Farmall tractors, most local John Deere collectors have to “import” collectibles!

Visit the pages showing the Carrot Museum's experience when the annual festival was visited in 2007. Here.

Carrots are shipped from California year-round. Shipments are highest from December to August. California produces about 85 percent of all carrots grown in the United States. Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Texas, and Washington are other important carrot-producing states. Major carrot imports come from Canada and Mexico.

Full US carrot production statistics can be found at the ERS department of USDA here.


California - is the largest growing area in the US

Production - California has four main production areas for carrots (Daucus carota): the southern San Joaquin Valley and the Cuyama Valley (Kern and Santa Barbara Counties); the southern desert (Imperial and Riverside Counties); the high desert (Los Angeles County); and the central coast (Monterey County). Carrots are grown year-round in California. In the southern San Joaquin and Cuyama Valleys, carrots are planted from December to March for harvest from May to July and from July to September for harvest from November to February. In the southern desert, they are planted from August to February for harvest from December to June.

In the high desert they are planted from April to July for harvest from August to December. On the central coast, they are planted from December to August for harvest from April to January. Consumer demand for uniform roots of deep orange colour has led to extensive use of Imperator-type hybrids. Varieties for the cut and peel market include Sugarsnax, Topcut, Primecut, Trinity, Imperial Cut, and Tastypeel.

Cello varieties commonly used include Apache, Navajo, Maverick and Choctaw. Some of the major producers in California also use their own proprietary varieties. Nantes-type varieties, commonly grown in Europe and in home gardens, are not normally grown commercially in California. There is a growing interest by producers in other coloured carrots such as reds, yellows, and purple, and these are beginning to be grown on a larger scale. Carrots are always direct seeded. Both raw and pelleted seed are used.

Grimmway Farms is the largest grower in the US, it started back in the mid-1960s, when Rod Grimm, who was in college, and Robert Grimm, who was only in eighth grade, started farming five acres of sweet corn on their grandfather's chicken farm in Anaheim, California. Their first employees were their cousins and two sisters, who sold the corn from produce stands along the roadside. Through the years, they added other crops, but by the late 1970s, Rod and Robert became deeply in debt. In the early 1980s, the brothers saw a promising future in the carrot farming business in the San Joaquin Valley, so they relocated to Kern County. "After the concept of baby carrots was successfully test-marketed by another company in Los Angeles, 'it quickly turned into a race to see which processors could put in equipment fast enough to serve the emerging market,' Robert Grimm later recalled. He considered the name 'a happy accident' for the baby carrots, while it did nothing to dissuade shoppers from thinking they were buying an immature root vegetable. By the mid-1990s, the company was able to process millions of pounds of baby carrots a day.

(Source - University of California Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources)


Washington State - Washington state ranks first in the U.S. in production of processing carrots and fourth for fresh market carrots . Overall, Washington ranks second to California in production of carrots. Washington produces approximately 33% of the processing carrots grown in the U.S. and 3% of the fresh carrots.

In 1998, 6,500 acres of processing carrots and 3,000 acres of fresh market carrots were harvested in Washington. About 2% of this carrot acreage was grown using organic methods. The total cash value of the carrot crop was more than $28 million. ❖ Approximately 134 farms grew carrots in 1997. Of these, 106 were irrigated.  Production costs for Imperator-type carrots were $2,347 per acre and $2,090 for Chantenay-type carrots in the south Columbia Basin in 2000.

Three types of carrots are important commercially in Washington state for the fresh market and processing: Imperator carrots, Chantenay carrots, and baby carrots. All processing carrots in Washington state are grown under contract. The contracts specify harvest dates, amount supplied, and specifications for root size and quality. Growers, however, make their own decisions on production and pest management practices. The grower also generally selects which cultivar to plant. There is a great difference in the scale of production among Washington state carrot growers (6). Small-scale growers typically plant less than 20 acres of carrots annually and many plant less than 5 acres. Large-scale growers plant more than 100 acres of carrots. A number of large-scale growers plant more than 500 acres each year.

(Source - Co-operative extension of Washington State University, College of Agriculture and Economics) Read about how they grow carrots in washington State, the USA's largest grower of processed carrots. here


Williamsburg reference material:

Documentary References to Root Crops References to Root Crops in the Virginia Gazette:

Nov. 30, 1759; Christopher Ayscough, Palace: Scarlet Radish, Black turnip radish

March 26, 1767, William Wills, Richmond, John Donley, Petersburg: Orange Carrot, Parsnip, Red Beet, Scarlet Radish, Salmon Radish

March 10, 1768, William Wills, Richmond, John Donley, Petersburg: Short Orange Carrot, Long Orange Carrot, Parsnip, Red Beet, Scarlet Radish, Salmon Radish

Oct. 10, 1771; Campbell's Store, Richmond: Carrot

Dec. 31,1772; John Carter Store: Carrot, Salmon Radish

Dec. 16, 1773; John Carter Store: Orange Carrot, Different sorts of Radish

Jan. 3, 1774; James Wilson, College of William and Mary: Red and White Beet, Early Carrot, Skirret, Salmon Radish, Short-topped Radish, White and Black Spanish Radish

Mar. 7, 1792; Minton Collins, Richmond: Large Orange Carrot, Large Parsnips, Red and White Beet, Salmon or short topped radish, White turnip radish

Oct. 17, 1792; Minton Collins, Richmond: Salmon short-topped radish, Turnip radish

Jan. 4, 1799; Peter Bellet Nursery: Carrots, Parsnip

Other Virginia references to Root Crops:

Nelson Letter Book, Feb. 27, 1767: Carrot, Parsnip

Nelson Letter Book, Aug. 29, 1771: Purple turnip, reddish

Wallace, Davidson & Johnson Order Book, 1774: Salmon Radish

William Byrd II, Natural History, c. 1730: Carrots, Beets, Radish, Horse Radish, Parsnips, Many species of potatoes

John Randolph, A Treatise on Gardening, 1793: Orange Carrot, White Carrot ,Scarlet Radish, Salmon radish, London short topped Radish, Turnep Radish, Salsify, Potato (Irish), Parsnip

Josph Prentis, Monthy Kalender & Garden Book, 1775 - 1788: Rhadish, Carrots, Parsnip, Salsafy

Major Thomas Jones Diary, Essex County, 1797: Carrots, Parsnip, Beets, Irish Potatoes, Virginia Potatoes, Salmon Radish, Short Top Radish, Turnip Radish

Jefferson's Garden Book (first citation) Carrots (1774), Early Carrot (1812), Large Carrot (1812), Orange Carrot (1809), Yellow Carrot (1811), Radish (1767), Black Radish (1812), English Scarlet (1794), Leather Coal Radish (1824), Oil Radish (1809), Rose Radish (1786), Salmon Radish (1774), Scarlet Radish (1774), Summer Radish (1809), Violet Radish (1817), White Radish (1786), Parsnip (1774), Salsify (1774), Sweet Potato (1782), Irish Potato (1772), Red Beet (1774), Scarlet Beet (1809), Jerusalem Artichoke (1794)

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