The Modern Carrot Today
Navigation of this page: Main types - Typologies - Varieties - Visits and Events - Carrot Colours
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.- Commercial Processing - News - Around the World - Botanical Description - Wonky Carrots and Waste
The Carrot is an economically important horticultural crop that has gained popularity since world War Two (ended 1945) due to increased awareness of its nutritional value. Orange carrots are highly revered as “good for the eyes” due to their high content of hydrocarbon carotenoids, a class of phytochemicals that are often precursors to vitamin A. α- and β-Carotene predominate in orange carrots.
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 2,031 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. Although, there are many different carrot varieties available, British farmers tend to grow the Nairobi variety, a berlicum-antes cross, which is reliable, damage resistant and produces a good yield.
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.
Modern Market Needs
Carrots are specifically grown for particular market segments. Nunhems, a world leading seed supply company, has a passion for carrots and has kindly produced this summary of how they use their vast knowledge of carrots to ensure customers demands are catered for.
A. Researchers crack the case of ugly produce and the psychology driving food waste
(Roe. et. al. “Winning ugly: Profit maximizing marketing strategies for ugly foods.” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 2021.)
Consumers were convinced to buy the wonky vegetables at higher prices only when they learned of both its sustainability and health credentials.
Overall, the findings in this research suggest that instead of tossing ‘ugly’ produce, or flogging it at heavily discounted prices, retailers could sell it at a higher profit if its benefits are clearly advertised - and if instead of being singled out, misfit fruit and vegetables is included alongside regular produce.
These insights could help farmers achieve higher prices for their produce, and could help to tackle food waste. That’s needed because the way our food and retail systems are currently set up heavily biases agriculture towards ‘perfect’ produce, which not only affects farmers’ bottom lines but is also unsustainable.
B. Spanish researchers give carrot waste a second life
Carrots are one of the most important tubers grown worldwide, with an annual production of 36 million tons. However, they have a high discard rate that stands at 30%.
Researcher Marta Ramos looked for a solution to this problem in her doctoral thesis, which was directed by Juan García Serna, from the Pressure Process Engineering Group of the University of Valladolid. In her thesis, she explores the valorization of biomass through a biorefinery based on processing the discarded carrots with subcritical water to obtain high-added-value products from waste.
When carrots are processed by the food industry, they generate some pulp and juice by-products that could have a new life after undergoing fractionation processes, such as hydrolysis and ultrafiltration, and stabilization processes, such as spray-drying or freeze-drying.
The recovery of the pulp is based on a process of extraction of the valuable compounds through hydrothermal extraction. This process uses a flow of pressurized 140° C to 180° C water that passes through a reactor with a biomass load, in this case, carrot pulp. The process allows extracting sugars, hemicelluloses, and pectins from the residues, which are compounds of great value for the circular economy.
What can be done with these compounds?
Sugars are an asset that can be transformed into bioethanol, for example, thanks to fermentation with yeast. Meanwhile, hemicellulose could be reused for the manufacture of biofilms for the food industry because of its elasticity, stated Garcia Serna. Finally, pectins present multiple possibilities both in the food industry -where they are used as thickeners and gelling agents- and in the pharmaceutical industry.
Carrot juice residues can also be reused in different ways. The recovery of juice is based on the recovery of its main components, carotenoids and sugars, through ultrafiltration and diafiltration processes, which consist of separating the juice components through the use of membranes, or membranes and water.
Carotenoids are natural pigments that stand out for their antioxidant components and because they help protect the body against cardiovascular diseases. In addition, they have a great application in the food and cosmetic industries. Meanwhile, the sugars obtained can be used to get lactic acid and ethanol through fermentation processes, as stated previously.
Read about the British Carrot Growers Association trade field trials here. Every year the British Carrot Growers 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.
Carrots are also used extensively in the food colouring industry for which the orange (and also the black) carrot is one of the 20+ raw materials used by GNT. The main colour made out of carrot is red and orange. However these are usually mixed these raw materials together with others to make all kind of variations to this colour.
GNT is the global market leader in Colouring Foods and a trusted partner to the food and beverage industry. They provide vibrant colour shades with their EXBERRY® Colouring Foods, which can be used in a wide range of applications including beverages, confectionery and dairy products, to name just a few. The possibilities are almost limitless.
Nutrifood® products, providing the concentrated goodness from fruit and vegetables, can be used to enhance product characteristics such as taste, appearance and nutritional value in many applications.
Founded in 1978 GNT is an independent, family-owned company based in the Netherlands. (Photo Source; GNT International B.V.). Website here
As developer of colouring foods, used in the food industry by major manufacturers, they deliver 7 out of 10 major manufacturers worldwide in 70 countries.They are proud to help the industry to deliver clean labels as they do not use any chemicals in the production process.
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.
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)
Details 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||Sunlite||Creme de lite||Inca|
|Navajo||Sirkana||Top cut||Black Knight|
Here are some more examples
Thin, 9-12 inch roots have exceptionally fine flavour.
Noted for extreme length.
Dark orange, close to red at times.
A baby gourmet carrot that is tender and sweet.
A Nantes-type carrot that was developed in France for canning and pickling.
Almost coreless cylindrical carrot with a brilliant orange colour even through the soft core.
An excellent juicer and fine freezer type.
|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.
A sweet juicer, this bright red-orange, finely-flavoured carrot contains the highest number of amino acids found in nutritional research.
|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.
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)
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.
How they hand weed organic carrots - A farming method pioneered in the 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.
Part of a recent Carrot Museum crop (note very rare Spanish Black variety)
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).
Overview D. carota var sativus is a herbaceous biennial plant grown as an annual. In the first year, seedlings emerge with two strap-like leaves which are the cotyledons, followed by rosettes of doubly compound leaves arising from the crown. From the hypocotyl, a tap root develops. Initially, the plant produces top growth, which supplies carbohydrates to the swelling hypocotyl. High temperatures increase respiration in the leaves which reduces color development and sugar accumulation. Low temperature initiates flower development and reduces carbohydrate accumulation in the hypocotyl. Most often, the plant will not initiate a flower head until the second year of growth and a chilling period. The inflorescence is an umbel, with individual flowers maturing at staggering intervals. Cross-pollination is essential for seed development. The Apiaceae family derives its name from its affinity for attracting bees, which are the primary pollinator. D. carota seeds are tiny, and are covered with a fleshy mericarp that must be removed prior to seeding. Due to cross-pollination, variability is great in plants.
Root System A tap root system develops from the hypocotyl with secondary lateral roots branching from the xylem. Together, the hypocotyl and the tap root form the ‘Carrot Root'. At the center of the root is the light colored and more woody xylem surrounded by the deep orange and sugar loaded phloem. The periderm skin is composed of suberin and other waxy substances. Optimum root growth occurs at 60-70°F. Temperatures into the 50’s will affect the colour development and favour longer, more slender roots. Temperatures above 70°F will cause shorter, thicker roots with a stronger flavour, but less sugar. During flower initiation, the hypocotyl crown shrinks as carbohydrates and water content is shifted to support flower development and the overall root diameter becomes slender.
Leaves A tight rosette of leaves arises from the crown after the emergence of the characteristic cotyledonary leaves. Two kinds of leaves are formed. The lower leaves are pinnate and linear or lanceolet, and are fine and lacy in appearance. The upper leaves are smaller and less divided. Leaves in the second year of growth arise from the crown and along the elongated stem.
Flower Vernalization of the plant or seed induces formation of the inflorescence. Vernalization period is up to 6 to 8 weeks at temperatures below 50°F. Several cycles of flowering occur, producing umbel shaped inflorescence. The first inflorescence is the largest, and is termed the king umbel, followed by the queen and other secondary umbels. The white flowers are perfect, and require cross-pollination for seed set. Male sterile hybrids are often used as a seed source to decrease variability.
Seed Seeds are formed from carpels. They are tiny and covered with a spiny, hooked, and slightly curved mericarp. The mericarp contains a characteristic oil which inhibits seed germination, requiring the removal of the mericarp before planting. Seeds are highly variable due to cross-pollination and have undergone extensive breeding programs to increase uniformity. Hybridization, however, has not produced consistent results. Seed development and vigor are determined by the conditions under which they are formed. A larger seed (embryo) will have a more rapid emergence and produce a stronger seedling. This is important in that the seed is slow to germinate and the young seedling is slow in the initial growth phase. There are approximately 23,000 seeds per ounce.
See more photos of common varieties supplied by Thompson and Morgan the leading seed suppliers in the US and UK. Click here.
John's visits to UK carrot producers/packers and growers profiles: (click on title to see photos and more information)
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.
Poskitts, one of the leading supermarket suppliers.
Hobsons, growing carrots for the food processing industry.
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!).
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!
This is Organics
Tio (This is organics) Ltd is one of the leading organic food producers and suppliers in the UK and one of the largest growers of organic carrots in the UK and Europe. Organic carrots are their core product which are supplied year round. For approximately 10 months of the year carrots are grown in Scotland.
A farming method pioneered by this company is affectionately known as the NUTS (Non-Umbelliferous Targeting Sabre) machine (shown right). Every season an 80 strong workforce helps to hand weed our organic carrot fields. Literally lying down on the job and facing the field, the tractors pull these specially designed trailers slowly along the field beds, giving the workers adequate time to pick all the weeds.
Grimmways - the largest carrot producer in the USA (visited in February 2015 - photos here)
Grimmway Farms is dedicated to providing good value, consistent quality and dependable service to fulfill customers’ needs - those guiding principles have enabled our company to conduct business with integrity for more than 40 years.. The story of Grimmway began in 1968, when brothers Rod and Bob Grimm set up a roadside produce stand and planted the seed that would blossom into today’s Grimmway Farms. Ten years later, the brothers moved north to Kern County, where the family business took root and prospered from their dedication to product quality and customer service. For more than 45 years, our commitment to that promise continues to be upheld as a top priority.
Grimmway Farms’ dedication to consistent quality and dependable service has made them the global leader in our industry. Grimmway Farms has grown to become not only one of the largest growers, producers and shippers of carrots in the world but also a leading supplier of organic produce, potatoes and carrot juice concentrate.
Beginning with our founders’ farm stand in 1968, At Grimmway Farms, their commitment to customers is to continue to offer unsurpassed quality, innovative products and packaging; and to employ strict safety standards and extensive sustainability programs and practices. - See more at: http://www.grimmway.com/carrots/about-grimmway/#sthash.Jv2Dby28.dpuf
In 1985 Grimmways moved the carrot processing plant to Bakersfield, CA wherethe climate enables two annual carrot crops.
Grimmways grow carrots in a variety of regions in California to ensure ideal growing conditions year round. Carrots thrive in the sandy, loamy soils of California. These soils, combined with the ideal California climate (75° to 85°days and cool nights 50° to 60°), provide the optimal growing conditions. As a result, they transition growing areas throughout Central and Southern California to ensure just-picked carrots are delivered to their customers for every season. - See more at: http://www.grimmway.com/carrots/our-process/where-we-grow/#sthash.KkFgthOL.dpuf
Grimmways website here.
Bolthouse Farms - the second largest producer in the USA (visited in February 2015 - photos here)
Rooted in Quality, thanks to nearly 100 years of working the land, Bolthouse Farms have a hard-won wisdom and passionate commitment to providing superior, fresher products. Motivated by the Greater Good Community is their top priority and are driven as much by the health of their families as they are the health of the country and the world. For that reason, they never stop learning and partnering with others who share their cause and passions.
Bolthouse believe in the power of innovation to connect people with fresher food. That's why they add a punch of creativity to everything they do – from farming to product development to marketing conversation.
95 years experience of farming with creativity and innovation. The results: high-quality products made as much of fresh thinking as fresh ingredients. We are partners on a journey to change the way people think about and use fresh fruits and veggies. We will help inspire people to lead healthier, more vibrant lives. People know they should make healthier food choices, but it's not always easy. We believe everyone deserves healthy food that's more accessible, available and affordable.
Bolthouse website here - The Bolthouse Q and A section is here.
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.
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