The Sandwich Carrot

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Sandwich Carrots are referenced throughout agricultural books from 1599 onwards. The land in Kent was perfect for growing growing and it was the area where Dutch refugees settled, bringing with them their superior horticultural knowledge and practices. Hence the "Sandwich Carrot" was established in the UK, taking their name from the town and often, initially, called red carrots (actually a deep orange - there was no name for the colour orange at that time).

Dutch immigrants arriving in England from the middle of the sixteenth established communities, mostly in towns in southern and eastern England. Many were textile workers but vegetable gardeners and farmers also came, introducing the crops and intensive techniques of their native lands.

Immigrant gardeners made a significant contribution to food production at Norwich, Sandwich, and Colchester before the end of the sixteenth century. At Norwich in 1575 the Strangers' production of vegetables was 'grete succor and sustenaunce for the pore'. The vicar of St Clements, Sandwich, took tithe of Dutchmen's gardens from 1570. Some Strangers moved from Sandwich to Colchester; by I584 over 1000 Dutch people lived there and gardeners amongst them produced root vegetables for sale. (source - L F Roker, 'The Flemish and Dutch Community in Colchester in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries', M A London Univ, 1963. p 84, State Papers Domestic, Elizabeth, vol 2o, no 49; William Boys, Collections for an History of Sandwich, Canterbury, ~792, p 340)

 There is quite a lot more information about the influence of Dutch agriculturists and their role in Sandwich in Garden seeds in England before the late eighteenth century: I. Seed growing By Malcolm Thick, Agricultural History Review, 1989) - full copy here - pdf)

Image from Otto Banga - Main Types of Western Carotene Carrot and their Origin 1963

Banga considered that the Sandwich Carrots spread from Flanders to the South West part of the Netherlands which borders on it. Then from there to England with the immigrants to Sandwich, Kent in the UK.

Flanders varieties had been selected form Long Orange as an adaptation to heavier soils. Its roots were easier to pull that the varieties based on the longer version, Longer Orange. The Flanders seed was listed in various catalogues in the 1850's.

"Hybrid – The History of Plant Breeding and Science" By Noel Kingsbury 2009 :

"In the low Countries of Europe (Netherlands and Belgium) appear to have been the leading seed producers and it was a close knit community of Dutch and Flemish immigrants who started the business of growing seed in England, around Sandwich in Kent, during the 17th C. Although active selection was probably practiced, their seed gained a reputation for quality. In the case of carrots this almost certainly was because of varietal superiority; by 1610, the “Sandwich Carrot” was renowned throughout the country. The seed trade slowly built up its strength diversity and geographical spread; interestingly, unlike other areas of agricultural and horticultural progress, which were led by the gentry, the seed trade of carrots was built up by small tradesmen and the growers themselves."

Some Historical references:

To dress Carrots. 1717 [Williams, T. The Accomplished Housekeeper, and Universal Cook 1717. Hannah Glasse's 1784 Art of Cookery used this recipe, as did other cookbooks]

If your carrots are young, you need only wipe them after they are boiled , but if they are old you must: scrape them before they are boiled. Slice them into a plate, and pour melted butter over them. Young spring carrots will be boiled in half an hour, large ones in an hour, and old Sandwich carrots will take two hours.

Stephen Switzer records in The Practical Kitchen Gardiner (1727) yellow or Sandwich, red and orange carrots

The name of the town is, most likely, Saxon in origin, approximately meaning sandy place, or the place on the sand.

james gilray - sandwich carrots James Gillray, (1756-1815) Carrot Sandwich - According to Wright & Evans, Historical and Descriptive Account of the Caricatures of the artist "The scene represented here is said to have been one of the usual amusements of Lord Sandwich. A guinea was the usual mark of his attention to the lucky flower-girl, or itinerant barrow-woman, who attracted his glance." A buxom girl pushing a wheelbarrow of carrots along Bond Street, looking over her shoulder at an older man, possibly the son of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who is tugging at her apron. (Created in 1796)

"Sandwich-carrots! - dainty Sandwich-carrots." The 1796 print by satirist James Gillray portrayed John Montagu, 5th Earl of Sandwich (1744–1814) putting money in the pocket of a street vendor. (British Museum online). Sandwich Carrots did not take their name from the Earl, but from the town. They were called red carrots but actually were "a very deep orange...and the most esteemed." recipes below are for boiling and for soup.

"... about Sandwich the soil is so adapted to the growth of carrots, that it produces larger ones, and of a more excellent flavour and colour than those that grow any where else." [Hasted, Edward. The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent. Canterbury: 1797]

The Sandwich CarrotElizabethan Consumption - William Rhind wrote in the "History of the Vegetable Kingdom", 1857 - "Carrot was first generally cultivated in England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 (1533-1603), being introduced by the Flemings, who took refuge from the persecutions of Philip II of Spain, and who, finding the soil about Sandwich peculiarly favourable for it, grew it there largely. The English whose agricultural knowledge which was circumscribed, were in this case well pleased to add another edible vegetable to the scanty list which were then under cultivation. The carrot grew quickly into esteem and, being made an object of careful culture, was very shortly naturalised throughout the land. 

The vegetable was a firm favourite of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England. It seems royalty really got the ball rolling when a deputy to the English court presented Queen Elizabeth I with a tub of butter and a wreath of tender carrots emblazoned with diamonds. Lore has it that she removed the diamonds and sent the carrots and butter to the kitchen. They returned as the classic side dish: buttered carrots.

Parkinson (1567-1650), the celebrated botanist to James the First, mentions that in his time the ladies adorned their head dresses with carrot leaves, the light feathery verdure of which caused then to be no contemptible substitute for the plumage of birds. Although the taste of the fair sex in the present day had discarded this simple and perishable ornament, the leaves of the carrot are even now sometimes used as house decorations."

18th Century - [Hale, Thomas. A Compleat Body Of Husbandry. London: 1758]

"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, I. 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 the 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."

Sandwich Carrots - (Source - British Husbandry, Exhibiting Farming Practice Various Parts United Kingdom 1837 - Library of Useful knowledge) "These are grown in the sandlings of Sandwich a pale yellow colour with a larger size root though courser and a somewhat inferior flavour extensively grown by farmers for its great produce for use as animal feed".

Carrot Soup. 1838 [Copley, Esther. The Housekeeper's Guide. London: 1838]

"For this purpose the large Sandwich carrots are the best; only the red outside part is to be used. To two quarts of plain broth (or liquor in which the bones of roast meat have been stewed,) put the red part of six or seven large carrots scraped clean and sliced thin, also one head of celery and a large onion or two cut in thin slices: cover the stew pan close, and let it simmer two hours, or more, till the carrots are soft enough to rub through a hair sieve or colander. Having done this, return the pulp to the stew-pan, with as much more broth as will bring it to the thickness of pease soup; stir it together. When it boils throw in a tea-cupful of bread-crumbs; let it boil a few minutes, season with salt and pepper; and serve. "

The "Vegetable Cultivator" of 1843, by John Rogers, states that the Long Orange, or Sandwich Carrot grow remarkably fine in that part of the country and scores of tons are sent from thence to the London markets. That and the Long Surrey are the two leading sorts grown.

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