First Depictions & Etymology of Orange Carrots
One problem in discovering the history of orange coloured carrots is that it is difficult to determine when the term "orange" as a descriptor of a colour in general, first appeared in the English language. Carrots were actually orange for many hundreds of years before they were recognised by the name "orange" in the 1500's. Before that they were described as "light red" or "deep yellow". Read more on the etymology here.
Etymology of the name "Karoton" (Greek), Karota (Latin/Roman) "Carotte" (French) and then English "Carrot" is discussed in detail in this page.
Some Etymological Notes on Gk. ΣΤΑΦΥΑΙΝΟΣ 'carrot' Author(s): John A. C. Greppin Source: Glotta , 1986, 64. Bd., 3./4. H. (1986), pp. 248-252 Published by: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (GmbH & Co. KG) Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40266760
Ephraim Nissan, “Etymothesis, Fallacy, and Ontologies: An Illustration from Phytonymy”. In Nachum Dershowitz and Ephraim Nissan (eds.), Language, Culture, Computation: Essays Dedicated to Yaacov Choueka. Vol. 3: Computational Linguistics and Linguistics. LNCS, vol. 8003. Springer Verlag (Heidelberg), 2014, pp. 207–364 (155 pages). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-45327-4_10;
The 1551 edition of the "Libro de Agricultura" by Gabriel Alonso de Herrera has this to say about carrots.
Of carrots and parsnips. Platina puts these two kinds of roots in the same chapter even though they are different in their colours. Parsnips are white like turnips, except that they are thinner and longer. Carrots have the appearance of turnips, neither more nor less, except that some are the colour of oranges; others are so red that they turn dark.
Original - Delas zanahorias y chirivias. Estas dos maneras de rayzes pone el Platina en un mismo capi. aun que ellas son differentes en sus colores: que las chirivias son blancas como los nabos salvo que son mas delgadas y largas. Las zanahorias son de la hechura de los nabos ni mas ni menos: salvo ser unas de color de naranjas: otras muy coloradas tanto que tornan en prietas. (Original text here) Full work here.
In the absence of a proper, recognised, word for orange carrots, historians have had to rely on visual depictions of carrot roots to show when they first started to be cultivated and consumed. Also terms such as yellow/red or deep yellow were used, and which probably meant orange
One of the earliest depictions of an orange carrot, in works of art - Pieter Aertsen Christ in the Home of Mary and Martha 1553 (oil on panel, Height: 126 cm (49.6 in). Width: 200 cm (78.7 in, location Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam). Possibly variety Rouge Longue sans coeur (Long Red Coreless)
|A few more examples of the depiction of coloured carrots in the 16th/17thC (click to see larger images - see more art works here).|
|Beuckelaer 1564||Beuckelaer 1566||Cotan 1602||Cotan 1602|
It is commonly held that the Dutch "invented" Orange carrots - However! - There are compelling arguments for a much earlier, near eastern origin - the Byzantine illustration in the Dioscorides codex, drawn in 512 ad shows quite clearly carrot plants with a thick, orange coloured root, indicating that carotene cultivars already existed at that time. In fact it is considered very likely that this Vienna Codex was copied from a much earlier manuscript, perhaps an illustrated manuscript owned by Theodosius II.(408-450 A.D.) If the carrot in the Codex is indeed orange, then the implication is clear that the Roman kitchen gardens contained orange rooted varieties that later became extinct. (Read about the Dutch origin of orange carrots here)
The World Carrot Museum has the honour of having an article published in the renowned academic journal Chronica Horticulturae. Co-authored with Dr. Jules Janick the James Troop Distinguished Professor in Horticulture, Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, Purdue University. The item is called Carrot History and Iconography a fascinating journey through the Carrot's development from Wild to Orange and beyond. Full copy here (page 13 onwards). Extract here.
An alphabetical recension of the Materia Medica of Dioscorides was illustrated in 512 (Juliana Anicia Codex) for presentation to Juliana Anicia, the daughter of Emperor Anicius Olybrius. A facsimile of this herbal with commentary by Otto Mazel has been published (Der Wiener Dioskurides, 1998, 1999). This most famous herbal includes 3 illustrations of cultivated and wild carrots.
The ad 512 images below show the first clear depictions of an orange rooted carrot. The figure left is labelled Staphylinos Keras (or cultivated carrot) and portrays a deeply orange straight root with rosette of leaves that looks very close to our modern carrot. The centre figure, labelled Staphylinos Agrios (wild carrot) shows a plant in flower with slenderer orange roots. Far right, a figure labelled Gingidion, shows a flowering plant with an extremely fine yellow root and has been identified as Daucus gingidium. (Elaphoboscom (parsnip) is illustrated separately and therefore clearly distinguishes the two plants.)
Staphylinos Agrios 313r
Above - The oldest known manuscript of Dioscorides work is the Juliana Anicia Codex (ca. 512 A.D.), housed in the Austrian National Library in Vienna. Listed as Codex Vindobonensis Medicus Graecus 1., it is better known as “Vienna Dioscorides,” the oldest and most valuable work in the history of botany and pharmacology. Research has shown that the colour red and orange was usually achieved through the use of minium (lead oxide) - This compound's Latin name minium originates from the Minius River in northwest Spain where it was first mined.
Lead(II,IV) oxide was used as a red pigment in ancient Rome, where it was prepared by calcination of white lead. In the ancient and medieval periods it was used as a pigment in the production of illuminated manuscripts, and gave its name to the minium or miniature, a style of picture painted with the colour.
Since an original copy of Dioscorides herbal has never been found, we cannot be certain that it included illustrations. It is certain, however, that, in 512 A.D., a Byzantine artist illustrated Dioscorides herbal for presentation to Juliana Anicia, the daughter of Emperor Anicius Olybrius. The artist seems to have based his work on illustrations from the Rhizotomicon of Crateuas of Pergamon (1st century B.C.).
Here are the words which accompany the Dioscorides image - In 1655 John Goodyer made this English translation of Dioscorides work from a manuscript copy, and in 1933 Robert T Gunther edited this. This was probably not corrected against the Greek, and this version of Goodyer's Dioscorides makes no such attempt either:
Book 3 Chapter 59 -
The wild Staphylinos [Some call
him Keraskome, the Romans Carota, Pastinaca also, the Egyptians
Babibyru, Africans Sicha] Gingidion which has similar leaves, but broad
and somewhat bitter, a
erect, rough stem, this bears an umbel like dill, to the white blossoms,
but in the middle
a purple-coloured, fungus similar [and saffron-coloured like] entities are
The root is finger thick, a span long, fragrant, it is eaten cooked. The same drunk or suppositories inserted in the promoter of menstruation, it is potion also a good way against urinary retention, dropsy, and pleurisy against poisonous bites and stings Animals, it says that those who take him in advance, not by poisonous animals attacked. He also carried the pregnancy.
The root, however, which of course diuretic is irritating to both the cohabitation, but also raises them in the suppository is inserted, the embryo also. The finely pushed leaves, with honey applied, clean cancerous ulcers. The built Staphylinos is better to eat and also the same, but is of minor effect.
The following modern interpretation made in June 2000 by Tess Anne Osbaldeston offers a more accessible text to today’s readers, as the ‘Englished’ copy by Goodyer is generously endowed with post-medieval terminology -
3-59. STAPHULINOS AGRIOS,
SUGGESTED: Staphylinum [Pliny], Pastinaca sativa
Pastinaca erratica, Carota [Fuchs], Daucus officinarum [Bauhin],
Daucus carota var sativa [Linnaeus] — Carrot
Daucus carota var sylvestris — Wild Carrot
Staphylinum has leaves like gingidium, only broader and somewhat bitter. It has a rough upright stalk with a tuft similar to dill on which are white flowers, and in the midst something small of a purple colour and of almost a saffron colour. The root is the thickness of a finger, twenty centimetres long, sweet smelling and edible (boiled as a vegetable). The seed induces the menstrual flow, taken as a drink (or inserted as a pessary), and is good in liquid medicines for frequent painful urination, dropsy, and pleurisy, as well as for the bites and strikes of venomous creatures.
They also say that those who take it beforehand shall experience no assault from wild beasts. It encourages conception. The root (also being urinary) is applied to stir up sexual intercourse [aphrodisiac]. The leaves, pounded into small pieces with honey and applied, clean ulcers that spread.
The garden pastinaca is fitter to be eaten, and is good for the same purposes, working more weakly. It is also called cerascomen; the Romans call it carota, some pastinaca rustica, the Egyptians, babiburu, and the Africans sicham.
In around 950, Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq's produced a cookbook, the most comprehensive work of its kind. This traditional cookbook with more than 600 recipes using medieval ingredients and dishes from the luxurious cuisine of medieval Islam is also a rare guide to the contemporary culinary culture. He described the carrots used in his recipes thus:
Jazar - carrots. Of the cultivated varieties
1. Red-orange (jazar ahmar) carrot literally 'red', described as juicy, tender, and delicious. Poets compare it to carnelian, rubies, flames of fire, and coral reeds.
2. Yellow Carrot (jazar asfar), thicker and denser in texture than the red.
3. White Carrot (jazar abyad) similar to parsnips, aromatic, and deliciously sharp in taste. It is also described as having a pleasant crunch.
For more details on the cookbook and the 10th century recipes using carrots, there is a separate page in the Carrot museum. Here.
There is subsequently an 11th century manuscript (known as Pseudo-Apuleius, Dioscorides) which also shows an orange rooted variety. Much more background information, including a full translation of the script together with a larger photo are included on a separate page here.
The late 11th century witnessed this intriguing manuscript named the Bodlean 130, Herbal of Pseudo-Apuleius, which illustrates carrot root, leaves and flower quite accurately with yellow-orange roots (left hand image belwo). The script indicated that the Greeks called it stafi limagriam, others called it giger or eggon, the Romans called it udonaulion, the Carthaginians called it siccansade, the Calabria (Italy) called it pastinaca silvatica. The text states: “It grows in stony places and mounds; for women who suffer at childbirth and are not purged. With Herba pastinaca, cooked, together with the same water in which it was cooked, you take 30 peppercorns; mix together and give to drink; she will be purged. The same recipe as written above also works against toothache.”
Two manuscripts, Ashmole 1462 labelled Pastinaca Silvatica (centre), a yellow/orange root and Ashmole 1431 labelled Pastinaca (right), a darker red root, contain essentially the same text.
Orange and reddish carrots from 11th and 15th century manuscripts
|Herba pastinaca, Pseudo-Apuleius, Dioscorides, from Bury St Edmonds, England.||Pastinaca Silvatica, Bodlean Image Ashmole 1462||Pastinaca, Bodlean Image MS Ashmole 1431|
Important Copyright Notice: The images (above) appear with the kind permission of the Bodleian Library and are copyright and any use is restricted by law. Any unauthorised copying or reproduction will constitute an infringement of copyright.
The script is held by the Bodleian Library of Oxford University as part of its collection of illuminated mediaeval manuscripts.
The Tacuinum Sanitatis
The exquisitely illustrated manuscripts known as the Tacuinum Sanitatis were first commissioned by northern Italian nobility during the last decades of the 14th century. It is a medieval handbook on wellness, based on the Taqwin al‑sihha تقوين الصحة ("Tables of Health"), an eleventh-century Arab medical treatise by Ibn Butlan of Baghdad. Aimed at a cultured lay audience, the text exists in several variant Latin versions, the manuscripts of which are characteristically so profusely illustrated that one student called the Tacuinum "a trecento picture book," only "nominally a medical text". Though describing in detail the beneficial and harmful properties of foods and plants, it is far more than a herbal giving information on some 280 health-related items, in particular food and especially vegetables and fruits. The Vienna 2644 Tacuinum (below left) which contain the most accurate depictions, includes some 26 vegetables, 33 fruits, 3 flowers, 21 culinary and medicinal herbs, and 1 mushroom (truffles) in addition to 9 cereals.
|Vienna 2644 folio 28r Carrot (possibly parsnip, based on leaf form) labelled pastinace, a gardener harvests very long and narrow, pale yellow roots of a species, which some authorities have identified as parsnip, Pastinaca sativa, on the basis of the colour of the roots and the shape of the leaves. Perhaps a little too orange coloured to be parsnips.||Ms.3054 fol.9
Harvesting Parsnips and Carrots, from 'Tacuinum Sanitatis' (vellum), Italian School, (15th century) / Bibliotheque Municipale, Rouen, France
|Roma 4182 folio 49r. In a similar scene to the one far left and also labelled pastinace a gardener is busy harvesting a root crop, the foliage of which is comprised of many small, slightly dentate leaflets. The long, thin orange roots, low, intermingled in the foreground row and in the harvested pile clearly represent carrot, The Latin text reports that pastinace stimulates sexual intercourse but slows down digestion, and that the purple type, ripe in winter, is the best.|
The Tacuinum is also of interest in the study of agriculture and cooking; for example, some of the earliest identifiable images of a plant considered to be the carrot are found in it.
There are six copies still in existence which are a rich source of information on cultivated plants of the late medieval period as the vivid, large images depict plants growing and being harvested in situ. Three of the copies include an illustration of the harvest of an orange rooted plant, entitled “Pastinace”. In the opinion of the Carrot Museum these can only be images of a carrot, notwithstanding the confusing nomenclature and unintended confusion with parsnip. If the illustrators were minded to depict a parsnip then surely the colour would have strayed towards a paler, if not white pigment. Some observers have deduced that one of the images is Parsnip, based on the leaf formation. However, if the images are all supposed to be copies of the one original, they must all be of the same plant, carrot or parsnip. In the opinion of Carrot Museum and based on the distinct orange root colour they are all carrot.
The images are clearly very similar in form and structure and therefore intended to be copies of the one original, with only minor artistic variations as each one was presumably made by different artists. These manuscripts were based on an 11th century Arabic manuscript known as the Taqwim al-Sihha bi al-Ashab al- Sitta (Rectifying Health by Six Causes), which was a guide for healthy living written by the Christian physician and philosopher Abu al- Hasan al-Mukhtar ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Abdun ibn Sa’dun Ibn Butlan (d. 1063), who was born and educated in Baghdad and whose travels took him to localities that are today in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Israel, and Turkey. The Taqwim was a guide for healthy living, based on ancient philosophical concepts of Greek sciences. It summarized in tabular form information on some 280 health-related items, in particular food and especially vegetables and fruits.
In addition to its importance for the study of medieval medicine, the Tacuinum is also of interest in the study of agriculture and cooking; for example, a very early identifiable image of the carrot - a modern plant - is found in it.
The evolution of the orange carrot is confusing because the colour cited by various authors as either orange or yellow are not always reliable. It has long been held that Moorish invaders first brought the purple, and perhaps yellow, carrot to Spain in the 12th century and the purple is recorded in France and Germany by the 13th century. However, an illustrated English translation of Dioscorides' manuscript from late in the eleventh century titled De virtutibus bestiarum in arte medicinae shows what appears to be a purple carrot but little definitive evidence for the carrot, as a culinary plant, in England has been found until the 16th century.
In 1400 another orange rooted illustration of Pastinaca appeared, this time in an Italian herbal, Herbarium Apuleii, Lombardy.(right)
Source :Yale Medical Library. Manuscript. 18 [Herbarium Apuleii and other works]. [ca. 1400] MS 18 fol. [33v]
The first post Roman reference to carrots as food is found in 1475 in the work of European Bartolomeo Platina “De Honesta Voluptate”, a treatise on healthy eating: Roast Carrots in the coals, then peel them, cleaning off the ashes, and cut them up. Put in a dish with vinegar and a bit of wine. Scatter a few herbs on top.
A Feat of Gardening by Master John Gardener (c 1400) does not list carrots among the vegetables which he describes but Fromonds, "Herbys necessary for a gardyn by letter" (c. 1500) does include "karettes."
William Turners, The Names of Herbes (1548) writes; "Pastinaca is called…in englishe a Carot…Carettes growe in al countries in plenty."
In France, Ruellius in De natura stirpium (1536) describes purple and red carrots and in Germany, Fuchs, in De historia stirpium (1542) illustrates red and yellow carrots, although the red is definitely shaded towards purple. The half-long carrot, which eventually becomes the horn carrot (believed to be orange), is first described by Matthiolus in Commentarii secuno (1558).
The famous ceiling paintings in Villa Farnesina, Rome are dated to 1517. Ten illustrated episodes are located in spandrels surrounded by festoons of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, painted by Giovanni Martini da Udine (1487-1564) that include over 160 species of plants, all remarkably preserved. The decorations are referred to as the Loggia of Psyche, based on the heavenly adventures of Cupid and Psyche. The work is important in the history of art and botany since it records, in full colour, species which existed at the time. An orange carrot appears twice, together with a white parsnip. (more information in a separate Carrot Museum page here)
|The images relating to the Villa Farnesina appear with kind permission of Marialba Italia and is copyright and any use is restricted by law. Any unauthorised copying or reproduction will constitute an infringement of copyright.|
1487 - The Garden of Health (right)
Augsburg, Germany. (pg 189) Printed by Hamsen Schönsperger.
This contains a recipe, including carrot, for a "good drink to cure Dyspnea" - Difficulty in breathing, often associated with lung or heart disease and resulting in shortness of breath. Also called air hunger.
Note the root is coloured orange in the original manuscript. It is doubtful that this particular colour was chosen at random. The title text names it Wild Carrot.
Click on picture for full text in German. (source Botanicus.org)
The Etymology of Orange & Carrot
Carrot - Source - https://etymologeek.com/eng/carrot
Orange - The word orange entered Middle English from Old French and Anglo-Norman orenge. It is generally thought that Old French borrowed the Italian melarancio ("fruit of the orange tree", with mela "fruit") as pume orenge (with pume "fruit"). Although pume orenge is attested earlier than melarancio in available written sources, lexicographers believe that the Italian word is actually older. The word ultimately derives from a Dravidian language—possibly Telugu naarinja or Malayalam naaranga or Tamil nāram—via Sanskrit nāraṅgaḥ "orange tree", with borrowings through Persian nārang and Arabic nāranj.
Several colours of carrots have existed for over a thousand years. One problem which exists is that it is difficult to determine when the term "orange" as a descriptor of a colour in general, first appeared in the English language. Carrots were actually orange for many hundreds of years before they were recognised by the name "orange" in the 1500's. Before that they were described as "light red" or "deep yellow".
Orange is the definition of a colour between red and yellow. What this etymology tells us is that the colour was named after the fruit, and not the other way around. If you go back far enough in the literature, you can find really weird passages like one from Canterbury Tales where Chaucer describes someone's complexion as being 'between a red and a yellow.'
An academic description of the evolution of the word "orange" -
నారింజ nāriṃja, or Malayalam നാരങ്ങ nāraŋŋa.This was borrowed into Sanskrit as नारङ्ग nāraṅgaḥ, or "orange tree". From there the word entered Persian نارنگ nārang and then Arabic نارنج nāranj. From there, certain varieties of Arabic rebracketed the initial ‘n’, or reinterpreted that ‘n’ as if it had always been part of an initial article or preposition, giving some kind of dialectical āranj.
The word “orange” comes originally from one of the Dravidian languages, either Tamil
It was most likely from these Arabic dialects that the word jumped through the Genoese and Venetian trading networks into Italian as melarancio, or mela arancio where ‘mela’ is Italian for fruit. From there, Old French picked up the word as pume orenge, where ‘pume’ is fruit. Orenge then moved into Anglo-Norman, and eventually into Middle English as our familiar orange.
The colour is usually never associated with finance and wealth. Creative Commons, and 10 others are using a colour close to Carrot orange in their branding.
Spanish Zanahoria - the origin of the word carrot in Spanish comes from the ancient Spanish çahanoria, which comes from the hispanic arabic safunnārjah and, in turn, this of the maghreb ạsfnạryẗ (Isfannāríjja). The latter has origins in ancient Greek stafulinos agrios which means “wild carrot". The Moors are perhaps better known for their time in southern Italy, but they set up camp in Spain in 711 and stayed for 700 years, changing everything about Spanish life forever.
Orange in English - The first recorded use of orange as a colour name in
English was in 1512, in a will now filed with the Public Record Office.
Before this word was introduced to the English-speaking world, the colour
was referred to as the Dutch ġeolurēad (yellow-red). (Source:
Oxford English Dictionary,2011.) The
word is next recorded in English circa 1530 and was borrowed from Middle
French carotte, itself from Latin carōta, from Greek καρωτόνor karōton. In Old English, carrots (typically white at the time) were not
clearly distinguished from parsnips: the two were collectively called moru
or more (from Proto-Indo-European *mork- "edible root", cf. German Möhre).
Various languages still use the same word for "carrot" as they do for "root"; e.g. Dutch wortel.
The word for carrot in Welsh in Moron!!
Some of the earliest records in proper English date to the early and mid 15th century. One source (John Mirfield's Sinonoma Bartholomei) defines the orange: "Citrangulum pomum, orenge" and another (John Paston, in his letters) connects the orange with pregnancy cravings, saying of a certain "Dame Elysabet Calthorpe" - her husband William says that she "is a fayir lady and longyth for orangys, thow she be not wyth chyld."
Another early reference was in 1557 when we see the word used to mean the colour of the fruit. The colour is mentioned in the Statutes at Large of Great Britain, volume VI.
"Coloured cloth of any other colour or colours,.hereafter mentioned, that is to say, scarlet, red, crimson, morrey, violet, pewke, brown, blue, black, green, yellow, blue, orange."
The word orange itself was introduced to English through the Spanish word “naranja”, which came from the Sanskrit word nāraṅga, which literally means “orange tree”. The French (or English) dropped the leading “n” and eventually we got the word “orange". The orange carrot is believed to have developed and stabilised by Dutch breeders in the 1500's from seeds and plants brought by Arab traders, these may have come via Spain and Portugal..
In the early 16th century, the word orange gradually started being used to not only refer to the fruit, but also what we now know of as the colour orange.
Therefore, it is quite possible that orange carrots did exist before the 16th century, but there was no word to describe that colour, so carrots were often described as red or yellow and other variations of those colours. e.g. yellow-red.
Here is an approximate history of the word (Source thefreedictionary.com, via The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.) -
"orang·y, orang·ey (-n-j) adj. Word History: Oranges imported to China from the United States reflect a journey come full circle, for the orange had worked its way westward for centuries, originating in China, then being introduced to India, and travelling on to the Middle East, into Europe, and finally to the New World. The history of the word orange keeps step with this journey only part of the way. The word is possibly ultimately from Dravidian, a family of languages spoken in southern India and northern Sri Lanka. The Dravidian word or words were adopted into the Indo-European language Sanskrit with the form nranga. As the fruit passed westward, so did the word, as evidenced by Persian nrang and Arabic nranj. Arabs brought the first oranges to Spain, and the fruit rapidly spread throughout Europe. The important word for the development of our term is Old Italian melarancio, derived from mela, “fruit,” and arancio, “orange tree,” from Arabic nranj. Old Italian melarancio was translated into Old French as pume orenge, the o replacing the a because of the influence of the name of the town of Orange, from which oranges reached the northern part of France.
The final stage of the odyssey of the word was its borrowing into English from the Old French form orenge. Our word is first recorded in Middle English in a text probably composed around 1380, a time preceding the arrival of the orange in the New World."
Before the English-speaking world was familiar with the fruit, the colour we now call orange was referred to in Old English as geoluhread, which translates into Modern English as yellow-red. The word “orange” was adopted after the eponymous fruit was introduced to English via the Spanish word naranja, which came from the Sanskrit word nāraṅga.
Geoluhread is close to "gul-og-rød" (danish) which means "yellow and red". Additionally there is the word "Gulerod", which actually means carrot (again there's the orange connection) It wasn’t until 1544 that the use of the word as a colour, as derived from the fruit, made an appearance in English common usage. It is likely that this adoption of the word to describe a colour is tied to the popularity of the orange as a fruit, initially known to merchants and royalty, together with their servants and later to the masses.
A town in Southern France, Arausio, founded by the Romans in 35 BC, was classically pronounced "Aurenja." Predictably, that became "orange" once the French conflated naranj with or (gold color!). When a man named William the Silent from Nassau inherited the rule in Orange in 1544, he became William 1 of Orange, the founder of the House of Orange-Nassau. He led the Dutch in Revolt against the Spanish in the late 1500s, and they eventually won their independence in the form of the Dutch Republic.
The word "carrot" was first recorded in English around 1530 and was borrowed from Middle French carotte, itself from Late Latin carōta, from Greek καρωτόν karōton, originally from the Indo-European root *ker- (horn), due to its horn-like shape. In Old English, carrots (typically white at the time) were not clearly distinguished from parsnips, the two being collectively called moru or more (from Proto-Indo-European *mork- "edible root", German for carrot is Möhre). Various languages still use the same word for "carrot" as they do for "root"; e.g. in Dutch it is wortel.
The 1551 edition of the "Libro de Agricultura" by Gabriel Alonso de Herrera has this to say about orange carrots.
Of carrots and parsnips. Platina puts these two kinds of roots in the same chapter even though they are different in their colours. Parsnips are white like turnips, except that they are thinner and longer. Carrots have the appearance of turnips, neither more nor less, except that some are the colour of oranges; others are so red that they turn dark.
Orignal Text - Delas zanahorias y chirivias. Estas dos maneras de rayzes pone el Platina en un mismo capi. aun que ellas son differentes en sus colores: que las chirivias son blancas como los nabos salvo que son mas delgadas y largas. Las zanahorias son de la hechura de los nabos ni mas ni menos: salvo ser unas de color de naranjas: otras muy coloradas tanto que tornan en prietas. (Full extract here) Full document here.
A further very early manuscript clearly shows an orange root (image right), from Germany. Adam Lonitzer a German botanist, noted for his 1577 revised version of Eucharius Rösslin's herbal, wrote Kreuterbuch including - "Pastenachen Mören Pastinaca sativa, & sylvestris". (Photo, compliments of the Smithsonian Digital Collection of Early manuscriptsdam Lonitzer - Frankfurt 1582.)
The Foure Bookes of Husbandrie, collected by Conrad Heresbach 1577 make reference to Red and Yellow Carrots thus:
Redde and Yellowe Carrettes - You have also in this Garden red Carrets, I have some Yellowe Carrets. Plinie inviteth that Tiberius was so in love with this roote, that he caused Carrets to be yeerley brought him out of Germanie, from the Castell of Geluba standing upon the Rhine.
It delighteth in colde places, and is sowed before the kalendes of Marche, and of some in September; but the third and the best kind of sowing as some thinke, is in August.
There is also Wilde Carret, a kind of Parsnep. There are those that suppose it to be the yellowe roote, that is so common in Germanie, they are to be sowed in March. It is general that they be wello troden uppon, or kept cut, so the end the rootes may growe the greater." (Copy of original page here)
John Gerard writes in the Herball (1597):
is long, thicke and single, of a faire yellow colour, pleasant to be eaten,
and very sweet in taste. There is another kind hereof like to the former in
all parts, and differeth from it only in the colour of the root, which in
this is not yellow, but of a blackish red colour."
"The root is long, thicke and single, of a faire yellow colour, pleasant to be eaten, and very sweet in taste. There is another kind hereof like to the former in all parts, and differeth from it only in the colour of the root, which in this is not yellow, but of a blackish red colour."
This seems to indicate that the yellow carrot starts to replace the purple by the beginning of the 17th century. Giacomo Castelvetro writes in The Fruits, Herbs & Vegetables of Italy (1614): “We prepare salads from pink and yellow carrots, roasted or boiled in the same way, and turnips as well."
Parkinson writes in Paradisi in sol (1629); "the roote is round and long, thicke above and small below, wither red or yellow, either shorter or longer, according to his kinde; for there is one kinde, whose roote is wholly red quite throughout; another whose root is red without for a pretty way inward, but the middle is yellow." He describes several yellow varieties with both long and short roots saying that one of the long yellow varieties is; "of a deepe gold yellow colour, and is the best."
In1665 The Compleat Herball by Robert Lovell of Oxford contained "the summe of ancient and moderne authors, based on observations from the Physick garden in Oxford." This again appears to be a reworking of earlier works with a few enhancements. A fuller extract from the work is given here (pdf).
Lovell said "The carrot is red and yellow. The root of the yellow is temperately hot and something moist, of little nourishment, and that not very good, it's not so windie as the turnep, nor passeth so soon through the belly. The red is of like faculty, the seed of both is hot and dry. The seed breaketh and consumeth windiness and provoketh urine, as that of the wild carrots. The root is usually boyled with fat flesh and eaten."
One of the first written evidences of an orange carrot, particularly written in English (and therefore cannot be misinterpreted during translation) , written in English - 1677 - A Catalogue of Seeds, Plants &c Sold by Will’m: Lucas at the Naked Boy near Strand Bridge London (C. 1677) - Carrots, red, orang and yellow. (note: orang is how it was spelled) (full list here)
One of the earliest known recipes for a Marmelet of Oranges (close to what we know as marmalade today) comes from the recipe book of Eliza Cholmondeley around 1677.
Another good reliable written evidence is the Hortus Medicus Edinburgensis – A Catalogue of plants in the Physical Garden at Edinburgh by James Sutherland intendent of said garden was published in 1683.This work makes reference to Orange, Red, Yellow and White carrots, together with the common Wild Carrot. It and also distinguishes them from Parsnip as a separate plant.(See extract here). This is a very useful record as it shows what actually existed in the botanic garden in Edinburgh.
Another reference appears in 1683 - John Reid's "Scots Gard'ner" full text here - "orenge carrot". Reid also refers to "Of currans, the great red-Dutch, the white-Dutch, the great black." Currans is the old Gaelic name for carrots.
1688 Systema horti-culturae or The Art of Gardening By John Woolridge, Gent - "There are two sorts of them, the Yellow, and the Orange, or more red: the last of which is by much the better."
It also lists seeds available for sale, and again Orange Carrots receive a mention, here. (p271)
John Worlidge or John Woolridge (1640–1700) was a noted British agriculturalist, who lived in Petersfield, Hampshire, England. He was considered a great expert on rural affairs, and one of the first British agriculturalists to discuss the importance of farming as an industry.Worlidge's Systema Agriculturæ, or the Mystery of Husbandry discovered ... by J. W., Gent., was first published in 1668.
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 Wrtelen, in French Carotte, in Italian Pastinaca, in Spanish Canahoria 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."
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", gives a rare reference to the colours of carrots and orange
in particular. "Carrot - The root is long and thick, varying in colour from deepest orange to
the palest straw...........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, 1. 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
"Carrot - The root is long and thick, varying in colour from deepest orange to the palest straw...........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, 1. 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."
Whatever the origins of orange carrots, the Long Orange Dutch cultivar, is commonly held to be the progenitor of the orange Horn carrot varieties (Early Scarlet Horn, Early Half Long, Late Half Long). All modern, western carotene varieties ultimately descend from these varieties. The Horn Carrot derives from the Netherlands town of Hoorn in the neighbourhood of which it was probably developed. Horenshce Wortelen (carrots of Hoorn) were common on the Amsterdam market in 1610. The earliest English seedsmen list Early Horn and Long Orange.
Bradley, in the Dictionarium Botanicum (1728) writes: "we have four or five Sorts of 'em, but I esteem the Orange-Carrot, and a kind which they have in the Isle of Wight, to be the best; besides which, we have the white Carrot, which one would not be without for the Rarity of it." In Batty Langley's New Principles of Gardening (1728) he describes the two primary varieties of carrots this way: "Yellow Carrots…The root is of an Orange (rather than a limon) Colour." He also records that the root of this carrot is 22" long and 12 ½" in diameter, a huge root by today’s standards. . The red carrot he describes as; "its Root of a Blackish red without, and yellowish within; and is very seldom cultivated in our Gardens." - This is probably in reference to the purple carrot, which by this time is disappearing in England.
By 1763 carrots were classed as one of four varieties. The long orange, and the three varieties of Horn carrot; Late Half Long, Early Half Long and Early Scarlet Horn. The modern carrots all derive from these four types (Simmonds, Evolution of Crop Plants, 1995).
In 1768, Philip Miller writes in The Gardeners Dictionary:
"There are several varieties of the Garden Carrots, which differ in the colour of their roots, and these variations may be continued, where there is proper care taken no to mix the different sorts together in the same garden; but the Orange Carrot is generally esteemed in London, where the yellow and the white Carrots are seldom cultivated. The dark red, or purple Carrot, I take to be a distinct sort from either of these; but as it is much tenderer, I have not had an opportunity of seeing it in the flower, for the roots were all destroyed by the first frosts in autumn. The seeds of this sort were sent me from Aleppo, which succeeded very well, the roots were not so large as those of the other sorts of Carrots, and were of a purple colour, very like that of a deep-coloured Radish; they were very tender and sweet; the leaves were finer cut than those of the common Carrot, and were less hairy.
The second sort is commonly cultivated in gardens for the kitchen, and the different varieties of it are, in some places, esteemed, though in London, the Orange Carrot is preferred to all the other. The yellow and the white Carrots are seldom cultivated. The dark red, or purple carrot, I take it to be a different variety from these, but it is much tenderer. The seeds were sent to from Aleppo (largest city in Syria). They succeeded very well but the roots were not as large as other carrots. They were tender and sweet with finer leaves." (Philip Miller: Gardeners Dictionary. London 1768) (source Botanicus.org)
John Randolph in his Treatise of Gardening, 1793 wrote "Carrots are of two sortes, the Orange and white, the former being generally used, tho' the latter is much the sweetest kind"
Some images of the carrots varieties which Vilmorin described in "The Vegetable
Garden" in 1856 and give some idea of shapes and size of the "modern"
carrots, developed by the Dutch :
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