White Carrots

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The main colours of carrots now have their own pages  -  purple - black - white - yellow - red (click colour to select)

(carrot history here, history of carrot colour here)

white carrots

The carrot has traditionally been known as an orange vegetable. Generations of people in the West have grown up believing that carrots have always been orange. But long before the Orange carrot became established in the 15th century,  the white carrot (Daucus carota ssp. sativus) grew in Europe, often fed to cattle but also consumed by humans.

A few historical references -

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 Carrot (jazar ahmar) 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.

From De Honesta Voluptate (On Honest Indulgence and Good Health), Bartolomeo Platina,  - On Right Pleasure and Good Health; Platina 1475, from the Milham translation).

"Cariota - Roast carrots in the coals, then peel them, cleaning off the ashes, and cut them up. Put in a dish with oil, vinegar and a bit of wine; scatter a few mild herbs on the top.

On the Carrot and Parsnip - There are two kinds of parsnip (probably parsnip and carrot).  Doctors say that the parsnip is white while the carrot is red or almost black.  Both are difficult to digest and of little and harsh nourishment. The parsnip should be boiled twice, with the first water thrown away, and cooked with lettuce the second time. Transferred from there to a dish and seasoned with salt, vinegar, coriander, and pepper, it is suitable to eat, for it settles cough, pleurisy, and dropsy, and arouses passion. It is even customary for it to be rolled in meal and fried in oil and fat when it has been hollowed out after the first boiling."

Are they Parsnips - No! - It is important to distinguish between the White Carrot and the Parsnip as it has often been confused in history.  Often the description and naming of carrot and parsnip was interchangeable. Here's what the Carrot Museum Curator had to say in a paper about the history of carrots.(Source - Chronica Horticulturae© ISBN: 978 90 6605 019 8 (Volume 51 – Number 2; June 2011); ISSN: 0578-039X. Stolarczyk & Janick, journal Chronica Horticulturae. Carrot History and Iconography - a fascinating journey through the Carrot's development from Wild to Orange and beyond. Full copy here)

"Parsnip - The Cinderella of the Vegetable Kingdom

If carrot is the Prince Charming of the root vegetables, then parsnip is surely Cinderella, unloved, ignored and rejected. This sweet and delicious root vegetable, resembling an overgrown ivory-skinned carrot, probably had equal and aristocratic status with the carrot in Greek and Roman times and its spread into Western Europe is not separately documented. Historical references to carrot and parsnip are intertwined; early medieval carrots and parsnips were both thin and woody and mostly of a vaguely whitish color. This being the case, almost everyone up to the early modern period can perhaps be forgiven for failing to distinguish between the two, however frustrating this may be for the food and agricultural historian.

In classical and mediaeval writings both vegetables seem to have been sometimes called pastinaca and without associated evidence of colour or taste, it is difficult to distinguish the two. By the Middle Ages the parsnip was a popular vegetable in Europe, particularly as fleshier and tastier roots were developed, and often used to sweeten dishes in the absence of sugarcane not yet imported in bulk from the New World plantations and at a time when honey was a rare and expensive luxury. Before the potato arrived in Europe, parsnip was the staple starch crop.

Gerard’s 1597 Herball, speaking of its uses as a vegetable, observes: “The Parsneps nourish more than do the Turneps or the Carrots, and the nourishment is somewhat thicker, but not faultie nor bad. There is a good and pleasant foode or bread made of the rootes of Parsneps, as my friend Master Plat hath set foorth in his booke of experiments. It is said that Marmalade made with the roots, and a small quantity of sugar, will improve the appetite, and serve as a restorative to invalids.” 

white carrots alongside orange varietiesMany people believe that the white carrots found in the speciality stores are "just parsnips", this is not true.  Parsnip is in the carrot family but a separate species. Parsnips tend to have a more golden brown or ivory colour and a more nutty taste, and they tend to be larger. Parsnip, Pastinaca sativa L. is a native biennial of Europe and western Asia, which is cultivated for its large and fleshy taproot. It has been used for medicinal purposes and for food by the Romans and Greeks in ancient times. It belongs to the family Umbelliferae (Apiaceae)

Carrot can be orange, red, yellow, white or purple coloured, while parsnip is always creamy colored. Carrot is usually long and conically-shaped, but it can be also cylindrical or round in shape. Parsnip has elongated, cylindrical taproot. Some varieties of parsnip have bulbous taproot.

They are not white carrots. Parsnips are a cream-coloured, tapered winter root vegetable, closely related to both carrots and parsley. Parsnips have a complex taste. Similar to carrots, they're sweet, but they contain more starch and have an earthier, nutty taste.

White carrots  lack any pigmentation hence the presence of the white colour, they tend to have a smoother flavour than orange carrots. They do contain naturally occurring, health-promoting substances, called phytochemicals, natural bioactive compounds found in plant foods that work with nutrients and dietary fibre to protect against disease. One might say these are the least healthy of carrots but nevertheless have a rich taste.  These chemicals may be important in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, which is the build up of fatty deposits in artery walls. White carrots are preferably used in baby foods to prevent them from forming orange skin. White carrots are not a significant source of bioavailable carotenoids.

The carrots also contain fibre, vitamin K, potassium, folate, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin E and zinc. White carrots reduce the risk of lung, breast and colon cancer and are good for digestion. The antioxidants and phytochemicals in white carrots may also help with blood sugar regulation, delay the effects of ageing, and improve immune function.

Also, white carrots are preferably used in baby foods to prevent the babies from forming orange skin.

Cultivated carrots originated in the Afghanistan region and were yellow and purple. From this centerwhite carrot photo of domestication carrots were grown as a root crop to the East and West with the incorporation of several characteristics contrasting those two geographic regions. The Eastern carrot spread to central and north Asia and then to Japan. Red coloured carrot is typical for India and also was introduced to Japan. In contrast, Western carrot type is characterized initially by yellow and later by orange root colour.

This carrot type spread to West and now dominates in Europe and America. Carrot is rich in pro-healthy antioxidants both of lipophylic (carotenoids) and hydrophilic (phenolic compounds) characters. Although carotenoid content varies considerably among carrot genotypes, usually orange carrots contain high amounts of α- and β- carotene; yellow carrots contain lutein, the red color of carrots is due to lycopene, while polyphenol substances, mostly anthocyanins are typical for purple roots.

Historical references to carrot and parsnip are intertwined; early medieval carrots and parsnips were both thin and woody and mostly of a vaguely whitish color. This being the case, almost everyone up to the early modern period can perhaps be forgiven for failing to distinguish between the two, however frustrating this may be for the food and agricultural historian.

In the written work "A general collection of voyages and travels" 1769 by Thomas Pennant, the account of the visit to the Western Isles of Scotland noted:

carrot quote from 1769 scotland


The modern White Satin variety of Carrot

white satin carrot

white carrot leaves

white satin carrot

Wild carrot has a small, tough pale fleshed bitter white root; modern domestic carrot has a swollen, juice sweet root, usually orange.   Carrots originated in present day Afghanistan Lunar White Carrotabout 5000 years ago, probably originally as a purple or yellow root. Nature then took a hand and produced mutants and natural hybrids, crossing both with cultivated and wild varieties. It is considered that purple carrots were then taken westwards where it is thought  yellow mutants and wild forms crossed to produce orange. Finally some motivated Dutch growers took these mutant orange carrots under their horticultural wings and developed them to be sweeter and more practical. White carrots, which were the most prevalent in Europe until the 16th century were superseded by the better tasting orange variety.  Before that they were predominantly grown as animal fodder and only occasionally as human food.(Image left Lunar White variety)

In Roman times carrots were purple and possibly white, though these could been parsnips.. By the 10th century purple carrots were grown in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern Iran. Purple, white and yellow carrots were imported to southern Europe in the 14th century. Black, red and white carrots were also grown.

Health Benefits

Though the white carrot is considered as having the least health benefits due to lack of pigment, the other compounds like phytochemicals in these carrots can help reduce the risk of cancer and stroke. Also the dietary fibre in these carrots help fight against colon cancer.

The white carrot is a solution for people who have a carotene-allergy. They are as tasty as orange carrots, but white carrots look less attractive. White carrots are also good for digestion.

white and orange carrots

beligian white carrots

white carrot seed packet

Carotenoid Properties of Carrot Colours

Extract from Carotenoid Profiles and Consumer Sensory Evaluation of Speciality Carrots, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2004 J. Agric. Food Chem. 2004, 52, 3417-3421

carrot colours properties

Reasons to Grow White Carrots

They are a good alternative to the "traditional" orange colour

Carrots were originally white (and purple) and from Afghanistan before they cross bred to get the orange colour

They have phytochemicals which occur naturally in the plant to help with nutrients in our body and help prevent disease.

White carrots are said to be sweeter and juicer than orange carrots

White carrots are not "novelty" carrots genetically modified to produce this effect

They are good sources of dietary fibre and good for carotene allergy sufferers.


White Carrot Juice

Ingredients: 8 Large Fresh Cleaned White Carrots, 1 Fresh Cut Lime Wedge (Optional Garnish),

Information: Serving Size 1 123 Calories Per Serving 0 Grams Of Fat

Preparation Instructions:

White carrots are other delicious and interesting variety of the carrot species. The taste of white carrots is similar to that of orange carrots, however I found them to be slightly sweeter than the orange variety. I purchased mine at an Indian speciality shop in the city, as they weren't available at my regular grocery store. To begin this recipe you will first need to wash and rinse your white carrots under cold running tap water. Next take out your juice machine and plug it in. Next place a tall glass under your juice spout, and then turn on the machine. You are now ready to begin feeding your fresh produce through the machine. Once your glass is full of white carrot juice, turn off your machine, and then give your juice a couple of quick stirs using a swizzle stick. Garnish your juice with a freshly cut lime wedge.

White Carrot Soup Summary: A creamy white soup with a surprising carrot taste – strangely addictive!

Ingredients: Bunch of white carrots around 6 decent sized carrots), diced, 2 Leeks, sliced, 1 Stick celery, sliced, Pinch dried thyme, 1/2 Clove Garlic, finely sliced, Chicken stock, Salt and pepper to season.

1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp Double cream

Method 1.Begin by sweating off the vegetables in a little olive oil for 5 minutes before pouring in 750ml of chicken stock and adding the thyme. 2.Simmer for 20 minutes until all of the vegetables are soft, then whizz in a blender until smooth. 3.Add the honey and double cream and stir well. 4.If too thick thin with water to the desired consistency then season to taste. Variations Some variations on the net use Gruyere Cheese as an addition which sounds delicious.

Preparation time: 10 minutes; Cooking time: 30 minutes Number of servings : 4 .

Popular varieties include - Creme De Lite & White Satin

Ref material - Carotenoid biosynthesis genes provide evidence of geographical subdivision and extensive linkage disequilibrium in the carrot Jeremy Clotault • Emmanuel Geoffriau • Eric Lionneton • Mathilde Briard • Didier Peltier Received: 21 October 2009 / Accepted: 3 April 2010 / Published online: 22 April 2010  Springer-Verlag 2010 - Theor Appl Genet (2010) 121:659–672 DOI 10.1007/s00122-010-1338-1

Other Reference material here.

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