Domesticated carrots, Daucus carota subsp. sativus, are a form of wild carrot, Daucus carota, and are native to Europe and southwestern Asia. The domesticated variety comes from selectively breeding the wild one to produce larger, less woody taproots. Unlike domesticated carrots, you may have seen wild carrots flowing, but you may know them as Queen Anne's Lace (because of their beautiful, white lacy flowers).
Carrots have been around a long time. You can find carrots mentioned in texts as early as circa 500 B.C. in works by Epicharmus. However, the first recorded use of the word in English was around 1530. And if you've read Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor you may have noticed that he mentions them too. The word 'carrot' comes from the Middle French word "carotte," which comes from Late Latin, carōta, which is from the Greek, καρωτόν karōton, which is originally from the Indo-European, ker. This long linguistic history just underlines how carrots have been a part of our world for so long.
|Daucus carota flower|
Carrots are root vegetables. While the most common varieties are orange in color, there are also purple, white, red and yellow types too. However, in the past (1500 years ago) carrots were typically white and not always distinguished from parsnips. In addition, while we usually eat the root bit (the taproot), the green, leafy bits are edible too.
Carrots are a good source of vitamin A, K, and B6, and dietary fiber and are prepared and cooked in a variety of ways and used in a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory. Not surprisingly, carrots are an economically important vegetable crop. China is the largest producer, accounting for about half of the global output, followed by Russia and the US. Of interest, about 3.6 percent of people are allegic to carrots, and since the major carrot allergen is cross-reactive with similar allergens in birch and mugwort pollen, most people who have a carrot allergy also are allergic to these pollens.
I ordered the carrot honey that I have online from The Bee Folks, in Mount Airy, MD. According to their lovely website, this honey comes from farms in the Pacific Northwest that specialize in carrot seed production. Of interest, I've read that Oregon is famous for its seed production, including carrot seeds, so this honey may come from there. It has a deep, amber-red color and is quite thick. It has a very interesting and complex flavor. It starts out floral with an almost musky, grassy tone that gradually become spicy and a little smoky, a cross between the taste of Indian incense and anise, and then it ends with a cooked carrot kind of taste. I know my description sounds odd, but it is difficult to describe and this is as close as I can get to it. You'll just have to order some and see for yourself! I think this honey may be too complex to use in baking; I think you'd lose the flavor. But it is delicious out of the jar, and would be quite nice in hot cereal, on hot buttered toast, and perhaps in dark hot tea.