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Carrot Colours and the Carrot Museum

Just when I thought Julia Gillard being declared Prime Minister was exciting news for the week, today I discover that the carrot has been crowned Australia’s favourite vegetable. When I heard the carrot’s news, I had a bit of a chuckle to myself, as it was only a few days ago that I was discussing how carrots became orange with my friend David in Singapore.

When our lunchtime conversation turned to genetic engineering of food, I mentioned how while I find Monsanto terrifying, we also live with certain foods that have been changed over the years without realising it. I put the humble (or maybe not so humble today) carrot forward as an example, saying that I’d seen in a documentary that it was originally white and was bred to be orange by the Dutch to honour their royal family.

Carrot Colours, pic courtesy Carrot museum

He didn’t believe me at first. And when I went to check my facts it turns out the doco on carrot colours that I saw was wrong – they weren’t white. According to the Carrot Museum (and yes, there is one) carrots were originally red or purple before the Dutch started playing with their colour.

Apparently Dutch growers developed the orange carrot in the 1500’s and it was adopted as the Royal vegetable – the Dutch Royal colour being orange, as I discovered on my first Queen’s Day in Amsterdam.

But these days there are white carrots. And black carrots. Which are apparently being sold in “Rainbow Packs” alongside the old red and purple ones, with a classic orange thrown in for good measure. (Thanks to the USDA Agricultural Research Service and photographer Stephen Ausmus for this gorgeous shot of the carrots of the rainbow together.)

Personally, I do love a good carrot. A pack of organic carrots was one of the first things I bought when I did my first post-holiday grocery shop yesterday. But for me, broccoli is top of my vegetable pops. I wonder if it comes in any other colours….

(Carrot lovers and trivia freaks can discover more about carrot colours and other fascinating facts at the carrot museum’s website.)