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Carrots: It's What's Up, Doc!

The scientific name for the carrot is Daucus carota. The English name actually comes from the French carrotte, which was derived from the Latin carota, and ultimately from the Greek karoton1. The carrot has been such a ubiquitous vegetable in modern times that it has found its way into popular culture as well as into colloquial expressions, such as "carrot and stick". (To employ the carrot and stick is to prod and coax). The familiar, wise-cracking "Loony Toons" character, Bugs Bunny, is often seen wielding a carrot ala Groucho Marx and his trademark cigar. Partly because of Bugs, most people assume that rabbits love carrots. Many, in fact, do like carrots, but it is not unusual to find rabbits that will abstain. For those with pet rabbits, they should not be overfed on this delicacy. One inch of carrot per day along with a regular diet is considered appropriate2.

Carrot and Stick Image

The carrot is also considered a favorite of horses. It is widely used as a lure for deer. Large bags of carrots are often left in piles near deer blinds. They can be used as a kind of fodder to feed cattle3. In fact it was so many carrots going into cattle feed that prompted Mike Yurosek to devise a way to whittle "baby" carrots from castoff carrots.4 He made a fortune by supplying the United States with the now preferred form of the carrot.

For humans the carrot is an extremely versatile and nutritious root vegetable. It is cultivated throughout the world. It is used extensively in a wide variety of both sweet and savory recipes including carrot cake, and Carrot and Leek Bhajis.

Carrots, historically, have not always been the color they are now. Many hundreds of years ago they were red, purple, white and black! They were bitter in taste and were used mainly for their healing properties. They got a reputation as a 'cure-all' in the Middle Ages. Carrots were not orange in color until the Dutch worked to create an orange strain, cultivating them for the ruling 'House of Orange'.

The most nutritious way to eat carrots is either juiced or lightly cooked to enable the human body to absorb the beta-carotene, and other vitamins and minerals contained in them. Researches have found that the healing powers of carrots extend to helping to fight cancers. Drinking carrot juice on a regular basis helps prevent colds by assisting the body to build up the immune system.

Carrot ice cream, German carrots cooked in beer and the delicious sticky Gajjar halwa are the more unusual ways to cook with carrots. The great versatility of carrots arises from their mild, almost sweet flavor.

To explore more in-depth information about carrots, click on a topic in the navbar near the top of the page, or follow the "next page" links at the bottom of this and subsequent pages.

Next Page: History of Carrots

  1. Etymology Dictionary Online
  2. Pet Rabbit Care Information
  3. USA Today
  4. Wisegeek - What Are Baby Carrots?