History Wild Carrot Today Nutrition Cultivation Recipes Trivia Links Home Contact


The Carrot Today


Navigation of this page: Main types Typologies Varieties   Carrot Colours Commercial Processing News Around the World

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

Types of Carrots - there are two distinct categories of carrot in the modern world, the Cultivated Carrot (domesticated), which is detailed below, and the Wild Carrot which now has its own page. Click here to go there

The cultivated carrot is the second most popular vegetable in the world after the potato. When you read the nutrition pages you will see and agree why it should be number one. The health benefits of carrots are well established and cover a wide range in human health conditions. In general, carrots are important for healthy eyes, skin, hair, growth, and immune systems. They can lower cholesterol, prevent heart attacks, and help reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. Carrots are packed with nutrients. Botanical Description here.

In fact in England the carrot is Number One according to a survey carried out by the National Trust in 2002. Overall, 17% of the 2,carrots of many colors031 people in the survey opted for the carrot. It came ahead of the potato (15%) and broccoli (13%) in a battle of the vegetable patch. Least favourites by those questioned were Brussels Sprouts, Parsnip, Swede and Turnip.

The carrot plant is cultivated across the world for its prized taproot. The plant is biennial and bears flowers during the second year of its life. However, in general, the whole plant is harvested prematurely when the root reaches about an inch in diameter, tender and juicy. Carrots vary widely in colour and shape depending on the cultivar types. The colours are shown in the photo below and shapes and typologies lower down, with more detail on a separate page in the museum here.

Daucus is a worldwide genus of herbaceous plants of the family Apiaceae of which the best-known species is the cultivated carrot. Daucus genus of Umbelliferae Apiaceae, has about 25 species.

The cultivated carrot, hybridised from the wild carrot, can be either an annual (mainly in tropical areas) or a biennial (mainly in temperate areas). It is an erect herb of 20-50 cm tall when mature, and 120-150 cm when flowering. The taproot is fleshy, straight, conical to cylindrical, 5-50 cm long and 2-5 cm in diameter at the top, and usually orange (other colours include: purple, yellow, or white). Daucus Carota is a complex species, botanically comprising both wild and cultivated carrots.

All information within these pages refers to Daucus carota sativus, some of the varieties of which are described below. Other members of the carrot family include: Chervil, Celery. Celeriac, Arracacha, Fennel, Parsnip and Parsley.


Read about the British Carrot Growers Association trade field trials here.  Every year the British Carrot Association organise the Variety Demonstration and Exhibition -  a trade event to show off the latest varieties and yields in the way of field trials.  Most growers and seed producers pay a visit to learn about developments and and see fro themselves to end product pulled direct from the field trial sites. This gives an indication of potential yield, flavour and colour for next years crop planting.


There are two main types of cultivated carrots:

1. Eastern/Asiatic carrots - These are often called anthocyanin carrots because of their purple roots, although some have yellow roots. They have pubescent leaves giving them a grey-green colour and bolt easily. They have slightly dissected leaves, with branched roots and are an annual plant. The greatest diversity of these carrots is found in Afghanistan, Russia, Iran and India. These are the possible centres of domestication which took place around the 10th century. These types of carrot are still under cultivation in Asia, but are being rapidly replaced by orange rooted Western varieties.
(Purple carrots are making a comeback click here for details).

2. Western or Carotene Carrots - These have orange, red or white roots. It is most likely these carrots derived from the first group by selection among hybrid progenies of yellow Eastern carrots, white carrots and wild subspecies grown in the Mediterranean. the first two originated by mutation. These have strongly dissected leaves, the roots are un-branched and they have a bright green, sparsely hairy foliage and are biennial. These carrots may have originated in Turkey.

The western carrot is the by far the most popular carrot and can in turn be sub-divided into three groups:

1. Short-rooted varieties: These types mature more quickly and the first to be sown.
e.g.: Amsterdam Forcing, Tiana, Early French Frame, Early Nantes, Champion Scarlet Horn.
2. Medium-rooted varieties: The most common type of commercially grown carrots.
e.g.: Mokum; Flakkee; Autumn King; Chantenay Red Cored; Royal Chantenay.
3. Long-rooted varieties: These are usually grown in well-prepared and deep soils: e.g.: New Red Intermediate, Saint Valery.

 

Circle of Carrots

Photo compliments of USDA Agricultural Research Service, where researchers have selectively bred carrots with pigments that reflect almost all colours of the rainbow. More importantly, though, they're very good for your health. Photo by Stephen Ausmus.

Different Typologies - The current World production is around 25 million tonnes for an area of about one million hectares. The main producers are China (1/3 of the world area), followed by Russia and North America. Today there are several hundred varieties in very typologies. (classification according to characteristics) The Nantes type is the most widely cultivated in the world (about 50% of volume); it has been adopted by markets demanding optimum quality roots, and its cultivation is increasing on the five continents. Chantenay are popular in South America, Flakee in Eastern Europe and Kurodo mainly produced in Asia. Imperator and longer carrot types are preferred in North America. (Source for facts and graphic - Vilmorin)

Main Types of Carrots

Common Varieties

bunch of red carrotsDetails of common varieties with links to photos are now on a separate page - click here.

Many types of carrots are available, varying according to the area and climate, and every year new varieties are brought out on the market by the multi-national seed companies. These companies try to find the perfect carrot for every market and climate.

Golf ball-type carrots (Thumbelina) and the slightly longer Chantenays are good for containers and heavy soils. Short carrots also mature faster, shaving two weeks off the time it takes to put them on the table.

Nantes, Imperator and Danvers (and Danvers Half Long) grow up to 7 inches long and are suitable for most other soils. If colour is an issue, Danvers Half Long and Royal Chantenay are bright orange, while Scarlet Nantes and Blaze (an Imperator) are deep orange, almost red.

Believe it or not - There is a carrot variety for every letter of the alphabet and just to prove it click here to see the full list.

The maroon Carrot has been re-discovered by Dr L Pike from Texas. Check out the full story here.
 

Some modern varieties from Nunhems

Indigo Carrot Nunhems Sunlite carrot Nunhems Creme de lite carrot Nunhems Inca carrot Nunhems
Indigo Sunlite Creme de lite Inca
Navajo carrot Nunhems Sirkana carrot Nunhems Top cut carrot Nunhems Black Knight Carrot Nunhems
Navajo Sirkana Top cut Black Knight

Here are some more examples

japanese imperial long Japanese imperial long

Thin, 9-12 inch roots have exceptionally fine flavour.
Noted for extreme length.

Dark orange, close to red at times.

little finger Little Finger

A baby gourmet carrot that is tender and sweet.

A Nantes-type carrot that was developed in France for canning and pickling.

nantes coreless Nantes Coreless

Almost coreless cylindrical carrot with a brilliant orange colour even through the soft core.

An excellent juicer and fine freezer type.

red core chantenay Red Core Chantenay

The best tasting carrot. It is a versatile, good winter keeper, in the cellar or the ground, that is tasty raw or cooked.

Becomes sweeter in storage.

scarlet nantes Scarlet Nantes

A sweet juicer, this bright red-orange, finely-flavoured carrot contains the highest number of amino acids found in nutritional research.
organic st valery Organic St Valery

Vilmorin's 1856 edition of The Vegetable Garden refers to this French heirloom as, "A large handsome variety, with great productiveness, and at the same time a fine, regular shape, and thick, sweet, tender flesh."
Orange coloured carrots are the most popular but the vegetable is also commonly available in White, Yellow, Red and Maroon varieties. The Maroon/purple coloured varieties are making a big comeback in English stores.  Read more here.   Carrot colours pages start here.

Commercial Carrot Processing - the ultimate aim for the commercial growers is to achieve a final product which fits the market standards.

Most large commercial carrot producers have a highly sophisticated sorting system completed by machines and men/women! At the point of delivery from the fields the biggest rocks and waste are eliminated. (Numbers refer to photo below)

1. At all points in the process every attempt is made to avoid shocks to the roots which could cause damage to their appearance, stability and potential storage length. High falls between the chain of events are minimised to limit breakage.

2. Brushing is done by polishers to bring out the colours and the smoothness of the roots which do not show any more traces of dirt.

3. Hydrocooling is the decisive step. Roots are cooled down to the core in a few minutes.

4. Manual sorting is still necessary to enable the human eye to spot items which are split, spotted, broken, forked, rotten or sprouted.

5. Grading is an essential step and has become progressively more mechanised. Grading machines facilitate packaging of identical diameter roots.

6. Packaging is the final step before the carrots travel to market. Again more mechanised. The producers chance to include a marketing message to promote the products advantages, or to identify the respect of a protocol or seal of approval.

Important Note: A significant proportion of carrots are rejected during the washing and packing processes because of stringent quality requirements of supermarkets. For example the British Carrot Growers Association estimates that around 40% of carrot production is wasted between harvest and production, which makes it worthy of new research which is currently being undertaken by the Horticultural Development company, in the UK.

See Grimmway's massive carrot harvester in action here. (Youtube video)

Carrot Processing

 


How a typical carrot is processed to maximise use for human consumption

If you were to divide up a typical 8 and ½ inch carrot it would typically be processed in such a manner that only about the very top half inch goes to animal feed. This is at the crown end.  The point end quarter of the remaining carrot goes to making those tiny, baby carrots.  The central portions are processed either to make “standard” cut or peel baby carrots or sent for juice making.  The thickest part goes off to be processed into juice concentrate to be further sliced or diced into fresh pre-packs.

 

Diagrammatical Representation

How a Carrot is processed - copyright World Carrot Museum

How they hand weed organic carrots - A farming method pioneered in thge UK, affectionately called the NUTS (Non-Umbelliferous Targeting Sabre) machine. Every season an 80 strong workforce helps to hand weed our organic carrot fields. Literally lying down on the job and facing the field, tractors pull these specially designed trailers slowly along the field beds, giving the workers adequate time to pick all the weeds.  Photo and words compliments of TIO Root Crop Specialists.


Part of the Carrot Museum 2008 crop (note very rare Spanish Black variety)

The Carrot Museum's Coloured carrots - 2008 The Carrot Museum's Coloured carrots - 2008
Botanical Description -  The Carrot is an erect (30–120 cm high) annual or biennial herb of the UMBELLIFERAE family with a branched stem arising from a large, succulent, thick, fleshy 5–30 cm long tap root. The colour of the root in the cultivated varieties ranges from white, yellow, orange, purple, red  and black.

The shape varies from short stumps to tapering cones. Leaves are finely dissected, twice or thrice-pinnate, segments are linear to lanceolate, 0.5–3 cm long. Upper leaves are reduced, with a sheathing petiole. Stem is striate or ridged, glabrous to hispid, up to 1 m tall. Flowers are borne in compound, more or less globose, to 7-cmin- diameter umbels. Rays are numerous, bracts 1–2 pinnated, lobes linear, 7–10 bracteoles similar to bracts.

Flowers are white or yellowish; the outer are usually the largest. Sepals are minute or absent, there are five petals and stamens, ovary inferior with two cells and one ovule per cell, two styles. Fruits are oblong, with bristly hairs along ribs, 2–4 mm long.

The carrot is a member of the parsley family which includes about 2,500 species such as dill, caraway, cumin, chervil, coriander, fennel, anise, parsley, parsnip, and celery. It also includes poisonous species such a poison hemlock, water hemlock and fools parsley. The family includes ornamentals such as sea holly, masterwort and blue lace flower. The cultivated carrot belongs to the genus Daucus L. which contains many wild forms.

The carrot plant is indigenous to the maritime chalky soils of southern Europe but has spread widely, partly through reversion from cultivated plants. It still prefers the sea coast climate but is strong enough to be found almost anywhere. 

Carrots belong to the family Apiaceae which is characterised by having dissected leaves, umbellate inflorescences, and fruits that are schizocarps (which split into two mericarps).

Several hundred varieties of carrot exist with well over 50 different seeds generally available. The orange colour is due to a very high level of the yellow-orange plant pigment known (reasonably enough) as carotene. Although almost all plants contain this yellow pigment, the more conspicuous chlorophyll pigment (green) usually obscures it from view. When chlorophyll breaks down in autumn, or when a plant is suffering from poor nutrition, the underlying yellow carotene pigments of leaves become obvious.

A significant portion of fresh carrot production is used to produce fresh-cut products such as “baby carrots,” carrot coins, shreds, and sticks. Carrots directed or consigned to fresh-cut processing are typically harvested at an immature stage for optimal texture and taste. Fresh-cut carrots typically have a shelf-life of 3 to 4 weeks at 0 °C (32 °F) and 2 to 3 weeks at 3 to 5 ºC (37 to 41 °F).

 “White blush” has remained a problem for processors and shippers of fresh-cut carrots. The superficial whiteness is caused by dehydration of the cut surface (Cisneros-Zevallos et al., 1995). Low storage temperature and the presence of residual surface moisture significantly delays development of this disorder. Using sharp knives is important to reduce tissue damage and extend shelf-life (Barry-Ryan and O’Beirne, 1998).

 

See more photos of common varieties supplied by Thompson and Morgan the leading seed suppliers in the US and UK. Click here.

BUY YOUR SEEDS HERE:
Thompson & Morgan have a tremendous variety of carrot seeds for you to try, click on the link or banner to buy some.
Any seeds bought via this link makes a small a contribution to the upkeep of the World Carrot Museum.
See photos of common varieties supplied by Thompson and Morgan the leading seed suppliers in the US and UK. Click here.


 

Multi Coloured Carrots


John's visits to carrot producers/packers and growers profiles:

Potts Master Bakers - John had the privilege of having a personal guided tour of the leading baker of organic carrot cake, supplied to major supermarkets in the UK.  It is, naturally, based in Yorkshire!  Not only does it supply the trade, but also larger shops, restaurants and hotels.  Quite an operation!

Huntapac - John also took a personal guided tour of Huntapac one of the leading carrot packers in England and suppliers to the major supermarkets in the UK.

Metcalfe Organic supplies a wide ranging market including the NHS 5 a Day Scheme, Morrison's supermarkets, local boxed vegetable schemes, whole foods stores and food processing plants around the region.

Poskitts, one of the leading supermarket suppliers.

Cooks carrots in Lancashire supply many wholesale market, processing plants and local shops with their top quality produce - .

Another well respected carrot grower in Britain is P Caunce & Son at Brow Farm. at Brow Farm (yet to be visited!).

Organic Carrots in Scotland - Bare Necessities - Organic vegetables fresh and tasty -  BNFOODS contain the only good things in life! -  Bare Necessities Scottish Organic Carrots


Events

Countryside Days at the Yorkshire Showground. - every June gthe Museum puts on a show to teach kids about all aspects of carrots. They get to plant their own carrot seed and have the unique experience of a tour of Museum exhibits. 2 days+240 kids= GREAT FUN!! The Museum has now taken part in Countryside Days for the past 5 years.

Springtime Live is another Yorkshire Show ground event, in the Spring (duh!) which gives families an opportunity to learn about what happens in the countryside early in the year and take part in various craft and art activities.  Some photos of the Carrot Museum stand here.

The Carrot Museum Road Show has had exhibitions at the Royal Horticultural Society, Harlow Carr Gardens for the past two years. Visit the dedicated pages here.

Talks to schools, local societies and institutions are given on a regular basis, please e-mail the Museum if you would like a show or talk about carrots.

 


BUY YOUR SEEDS HERE:
Thompson & Morgan have a tremendous variety of carrot seeds for you to try, click on the link or banner to buy some.   Any seeds bought via this link makes a small a contribution to the upkeep of the World Carrot Museum.
See photos of common varieties supplied by Thompson and Morgan the leading seed suppliers in the US and UK. Click here.

 
Evengreener is the UK's leading manufacturer of water butts and home compost bins.
A genuinely 'green' company dedicated to providing useful products to help re-use, recycle and conserve resources.


History Wild Carrot Today Nutrition Cultivation Recipes Trivia Links Home ContactSITE SEARCH