In the 17th century, the Dutch cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange, wiping out a 1000-year history of white, yellow, red and purple carrots
In recent years many of us have seen multi-colored bags of carrots appear on grocery store shelves. The specialty item wasn’t available when we were kids, nor when our grandparents were kids.
Their sudden reappearance has led many of us to assume rainbow carrots are the result of modern hybridization or genetic modification, but the opposite is actually true. Purple, red, yellow and white carrots are actually much older than orange carrots.
Purple and yellow carrots have been cultivated around the world for about 1,100 years, while orange have only existed for about 500 years, and only became popular about 300 years ago.
All the colors that exist today evolved from wild white carrots, which were much smaller and used more for their leaves and seeds medicinally before their roots were cultivated for food.
“In the 17th century, Dutch growers cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – who led the the struggle for Dutch independence – and the color stuck,” reports The Washington Post.
“A thousand years of yellow, white and purple carrot history was wiped out in a generation.”
The Long Orange Dutch carrot was first described in writing in 1721, according to The World Carrot Museum.
The Long Orange Dutch carrot was the forebear of the orange Horn carrot, from which all modern, Western varieties descend. The Horn carrot originated in the Dutch town of Hoorn.
By the late 18th century, the Dutch Patriot movement had wiped out the House of Orange, and considered a display of orange carrots at market a covert gesture of support for an exiled reigning descendant of William.
The Patriots declared that orange was “the color of sedition…carrots sold with their roots too conspicuously showing were deemed provocative,” historian Simon Schama writes.
Too bad for the Patriots, the orange carrot had already become the most popular in the Western world and there was no turning back.
Luckily, the orange carrot seems to be the highest in beta carotene. But the others are still worth throwing in the mix for a little variety in flavor, texture and nutritional profiles… not to mention color. You do eat with your eyes first after all.