Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Carrots in the color of Dutch Royal Family, House of Orange

Today I was reading an article on BBC news Scientists unveil 'supercarrot' saying that scientists in the US have created a genetically-engineered carrot that provides extra calcium. It was interesting until this line came into my eye:

The orange colour we know is the result of Dutch cultivation in the 17th Century, when patriotic growers turned a vegetable which was then purple into the colour of the national flag.

Isn't this amazing? I didn't know that carrot's orange color could also have anything to do with the Dutch.
Then I did a search online. It turned out that carrot has a quite a long history.

The noble carrot has long been known as an orange vegetable thanks to patriotic Dutch growers who bred the vegetable to make it less bitter than the yellow varieties, and then it was adopted it as the Royal vegetable in honour of the House of Orange. Carrots were originally purple or red, with a thin root. The species did not turn orange until the 1500's when Dutch agricultural scientists and growers used a mutant yellow carrot seed from North Africa to develop a carrot in the colour of the House of Orange, the Dutch Royal Family. In an attempt to "nationalize" the country's favourite vegetable they began experiments on improving the pale yellow versions by cross breeding them with red varieties. These varieties contain beta carotene to produce orange-coloured roots This was developed to become the dominant species across the world - wonderful, sweet orange.

It is such an interesting finding to me. I remember carrots in my hometown used to be more yellowish and taste a little different. Now we consume quite a lot of carrot to make carrot juice every day, thanks to our Korean friend's healthy diet advice. I didn't know that I was in the birthplace of the orange carrot.

Another interesting finding reading the history of carrots is about the baby carrots. I have been wondering why US have so many baby carrots that I had never seen when I was in China. It was actually manufactured baby carrots. The process was
invented in the late 1980's by Mike Yurosek, a California farmer, as a way of making use of carrots which are too twisted or knobbly for sale as full-size carrots. Yurosek was unhappy at having to discard as much as 400 tonnes of carrots a day because of their imperfections. He was able to find an industrial green bean cutter, which cut his carrots into 5 cm lengths, and by placing these lengths into an industrial potato peeler, he created the baby carrot. It turns out to be a great business success and today in the Disney World, burgers come two ways: either with fries or baby carrots. And 80% of carrots sales in US market are baby carrots, can you believe that?

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