Carrots Weren't Always Orange

It's easy to think of fruits and vegetables as natural and unchanging, looking and tasting the same today as they did centuries ago. But in fact, almost every plant we eat today has been changed by human cultivation. The carrot is a perfect example: it's only been orange for a few centuries.

A Whole New Meaning To "Carrot Top"

Before being cultivated as the plump, juicy orange veggies we know today, wild carrots were thin, white, and only used for medicinal purposes. In the last few centuries BCE, humans began domesticating this wild variety into a plumper white root that was commonly confused with the parsnip. As carrot cultivation became more widespread, the vegetables began changing from white to bright yellow and deep purple. Carrots stayed this color for thousands of years.

Around the 16th century, the Dutch began developing an orange variety from yellow carrots. Though a common story says that the Dutch created orange carrots to honor their royal family, the House of Orange, there's little historical evidence to back this up. What's more likely is that the new orange variety was tastier than yellow or purple versions, and gained its popularity that way. 

Watch And Learn: Our Favorite Content About The Domestication Of The Carrot

Which Came First, Orange Carrots or Purple Carrots?

Hear more about the carrot's surprising history.

What Color Were Carrots Before The 1700s?

Find out why carrots weren't always orange.

What's Domestication?

See how humans change plants and animals to suit their own purposes.

Common Produce Before and After Domestication

Would you recognize these fruits and veggies in the wild?

Written by Curiosity Staff August 30, 2016

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