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Carrots are one of the most important root crops for humans, grown in temperate regions. Cultivated today, the vegetable was obtained from wild species, whose root crops were not at all orange. As shown by scientists, carrots were originally purple or yellow.
Today the origin and ways of evolution of the existing 80 species of cultured carrots are difficult to judge today. But the archeologists discover carrot seeds during excavations all over the Mediterranean coast, in North Africa, in the Asian region and in European countries with a temperate climate.
Wild species, most likely, originally for humans were not the source of succulent root crops, but greens. Perhaps carrots were also used as a medicinal plant.
At the same time in Iran and Europe, the cultural layers, where evidence of the growth of carrots are found, have an age of about 5 thousand years. Fossil pollen of the plants of the family Apiaceae, belonging to the Eocene period, has an age from 55 to 34 million years, which indicates the antiquity of the genus.
Ancestors of modern varieties of carrots
Today, there are two original types of cultured carrots. Oriental or Asian carrots historically, thanks to the anthocyanin pigment, has a violet color. And in some coloring is so intense that they began to talk about black carrots.
The leafy leaves of the eastern type have a silver hue and are markedly pubescent. The most widespread carrot was in Afghanistan, the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush Mountains, and Iran, India and parts of Russia. In the same areas there is also a yellow carrot, which in the wild is stiffer than the dark-colored carrot and has a pronounced pungent taste.
The beginning of cultural cultivation of purple carrots was probably in the X century. After three centuries, purple roots appeared in the Mediterranean, and a little later they were grown in China and Japan. East yellow and purple carrots are grown in Asia today, being used to make strong alcoholic drink, but in popularity and distribution is inferior to Western varieties with orange color roots.
The modern western type of carrots are colored thanks to carotene, so root crops can be red, orange, yellow or almost white.
Most likely, such varieties were the result of hybridization and crossing of plants of the eastern type with wild subspecies of Mediterranean yellow carrots. Roots consumed by Europeans, until the XVII century, were thin, highly branched and not at all succulent.
History of carrots in ancient times
Confirmed evidence of archaeological evidence of consumption of wild carrots were found in the parking lot of an ancient man in Switzerland.
On the temple drawings in Egyptian Luxor, dating from the second millennium BC, violet root crops are depicted. And in papyri, found in one of the burials of the pharaoh, refers to the treatment of seeds with carrots or a plant similar to her. But the Egyptologists' hypothesis about the spread of violet carrots in the Nile Valley to archaeologists or paleobotanists has not yet been confirmed. Perhaps, the ancient Egyptians were familiar with other representatives of the family Apiaceae, for example, anise, celery or coriander.
Petrified carrot seeds, aged no less than five millennia, were found on the highlands of Iran and in Afghanistan.
Many varieties of a variety of colors were found in Asia, there is evidence of the use of wild carrots in the Hellenic period in Greece. Basically, carrot seeds and its rhizomes were used for medicinal purposes. For example, in the Ardennes during the Ancient Rome, carrots served as aphrodisiacs, and Pontus king Mithridates VI believed that carrots could neutralize poisons.
Dioscorides, who served as a doctor in the Roman army, in the work of De Materia Medica during the hikes described and sketched more than 600 species of medicinal plants. The Byzantine edition of the work, dating back to the year 512, shows the reader the look of orange carrots.
A documented history of carrots and its introduction into culture
- The first cultural plantings of purple and yellow carrots, according to confirmed sources, appeared from the 10th century in Afghanistan and Persia. At the same time, carrots with red root crops appear in Iran and in the north of the Arabian Peninsula.
- In the XI century, plants of yellow, red and purple carrots are grown in Syria and other North African regions.
- Through the Middle East and African countries in the XII century, carrots of the eastern type fell into Mauritania Spain.
- At the same time, the Asian type of plant reached China and Italy, where in the 12th century red carrots began to spread.
- In the XIV-XV centuries, red, yellow and white carrots begin to be cultivated in Germany, France, England and the Netherlands.
- In Europe, thanks to crossing, already in the XVII century there was an unprecedented orange carrot.
- At the same time, orange and white roots are delivered to South and North America, and in Japan they first learn the eastern, and a hundred years later also the western type of carrots.
Riddle of white carrots and classification issues
In ancient Rome and Greece carrots were called differently, which led to contradictory interpretations. In particular, under the name Pastinaca, almost white carrots, and light roots of the extremely popular parsnip at that time, could hide.
Give the carrots the name Daucus, separating it from related species, suggested Galen. This happened in the second century of a new era. In the same years, the Roman scientist Athenaeus proposed the name Carota, and the root crop is also referred to in the cookbook Apicius Czclius, which dates back to the year 230.
However, with the fall of Rome, the mention of carrots from European written sources completely disappear. A confusion in the identification of closely related species and kinship of plants lasted until the Middle Ages, until the violet and yellow root crops were again imported to Europe from Asia.
Charlemagne issued a decree on the utmost veneration of carrots and recognition of its most valuable plant, and thanks to openwork leaves and umbrella inflorescences in history, carrots became known as the "lace of Queen Anne".
Today the names of all varieties, beginning with white root crops, ending with black carrots, are subject to Linnaeus classification, developed by him in 1753.
The beginning of the selection of carrots
Targeted selection of the species began relatively recently. The description of the first cultivar belongs to 1721 and was performed by Dutch botanists. Making carrots give more sweet and large rhizomes turned out to be easy. In order for the root crop to become noticeably spicier, sweeter and juicier, the plant needed only good care and the cultivation of several generations in favorable conditions.
Historians were surprised that since the appearance in the Netherlands of yellow and red carrots to her As a vegetable, less than three centuries passed, as if the plant itself wanted its cultivated.
The most famous varieties, Nantes and Chantana, humanity owes to the French gardener-devotee Louis de Vilmorin, which in the 19th century laid the foundations of modern crop production and in 1856 published a description of the claimed and today varieties.
Forming the color of carrots
The basis for obtaining both orange and white carrots became oriental yellow varieties. This conclusion, after analyzing the gene pool of plants, is made by geneticists, most recently, but in the world continue to cultivate both yellow and red carrots. A variety of purple carrots with a particularly intense dark color was called black. So what is the reason for such a variety of colors?
Coloring of root vegetables of carrots is the result of the action of various pigments related to carotenoids.
- For the orange and yellow color of the root, α- and β-carotene respond. In this case, β-carotene can be up to half of the total carotenoid content in orange or yellow carrots.
- Coloring of root crops of red carrots is due to the presence of lycopene and xanthophylls.
- White roots are characterized by the lowest content of carotene.
- Violet and black carrots, except carotene, contain a lot of anthocyanins, which is expressed in a higher than in other varieties of roots, antioxidant ability.
In the selection process, the carrot has become larger and juicy. She lost some of the essential oils, but acquired other health-related qualities, depending both on color and intensity.