Are Carrots Man-Made?

It might be surprising to hear that many of the most popular fruits and vegetables aren’t completely naturally occurring. Broccoli, apples, corn, and bananas were all man-made. Carrots also fall into this list.

Carrots are indeed man-made vegetables. Wild carrots, Daucus carota, can still be found in nature, but they are nothing like the carrots we know and love today. You can find wild carrots today in Iran and Afghanistan, but they don’t have the long orange edible part that we recognize them for.

In fact, you probably wouldn’t even recognize a wild carrot. They have white flowering tops, and brown roots, rather than the signature orange we have come to know. Wild carrots are not typically even used for culinary purposes. The cultivation of wild carrots into modern carrots began hundreds of years ago.

What are Man-Made Vegetables?

Man-made vegetables are created over time through selective breeding. Bananas, for example, are a combination of two fruits. One had a delicious flavor, but too many seeds, and one had a creamy texture, but a bad flavor. 

The positive elements of these two plants have created bananas as we know them. Farmers have learned how to combine desirable traits of foods, and selectively breeding them over many years to give us many of our modern-day vegetables and fruits.

Where Do Carrots Come From?  

Originally, carrots were not used for eating. The tops of carrots were aromatic, and the roots were bitter-tasting. Instead of being grown for the roots, they were grown for the tops and seeds. The medicinal properties of carrots have always been recognized.

Carrots have a decent amount of calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. The first carrots were discovered around 5,000 years ago, and people did not think their roots had any value. They were much smaller than they are today, and were white or purple in color, but not orange.

Eventually, carrots made their way to Europe and red and yellow varieties began to appear. People found that the roots were edible, but tasted bitter. So, it was pretty uncommon to consume the root of the carrot, until it developed by the guidance of humans to have a sweeter taste. 

Are Carrots Man-Made?        

The carrots that we know today wouldn’t exist without the help of human hands. At first, the size of carrots was much smaller than the carrots today, and the flavor was not pleasant. They can still be found in a variety of colors, but orange is the most popular. 

Orange carrots were popular initially because they didn’t stain dishes. People would often have stained cookware from carrots, and couldn’t afford to replace their dishes every time they cooked carrots. But, because the orange carrots did not stain, they quickly grew in popularity.

In short, carrots are a naturally occurring food, but they would not be nearly the way that they are today if it weren’t for modifying them over time. They aren’t made in a lab, but crossbred through the years to make them more desirable. 

How Did Carrots Become Man Made?

As mentioned, carrots do exist naturally. They were loved for their medicinal purposes, and weren’t eaten as much as they are today. When people did consume them, they would be left with stained dishes and a bitter taste in their mouth.

Once people realized that carrots were edible, farmers got to work. They figured out how to selectively breed carrots to give them more traits that people like, and less traits that people dislike. Over many years, the carrot slowly developed a longer root, a sweeter taste, and its orange color.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the color of the carrot orange?

It is thought that the first orange carrots came about in Germany and Spain, during the 1400s and 1500s. People liked the orange variety because they didn’t stain cookware, and every other variety of carrots before that did stain.

There is a legend that orange carrots were cultivated to honor William of Orange, a Dutch prince, but there isn’t really evidence to back this up. Either way, people quickly realized that orange carrots were the best type of carrot.

What did carrots initially look like?

Initially, carrots looked very different. You probably wouldn’t recognize the original carrot, in fact. They had small white flowers on top, and very short roots. The roots were either purple or white in color, but not orange.

Once people found that the root was edible, they also found that it didn’t taste very good. So, farmers cultivated carrots to have a longer, better-tasting edible root. It was a hit. People loved its sweetness and that it wasn’t messy to cook with.

What were carrots originally made for?

Carrots originally were not used to be eaten. They have always been known for their nutritional value, so people used them for medicinal purposes long before they tried eating them. Carrots are full of antioxidants, which can help fight sickness. So, people would eat carrots as a medicine, but not as a food.

Final Thoughts

It might be surprising to hear that carrots, as well as many other vegetables, are man-made. They do exist in nature, but not nearly in the way people have bred them to be. When foods are selectively bred over time, they take on more desirable traits, and lose the less purposeful ones.