No, the image above does not show some collection of freshly genetically designed hypercarrots in various colors of the rainbow. This is the spectrum of colors carrots used to have – and in some regions of the world you can still find white, yellow, red and purple carrots. In most countries however, carrots tend to be orange nowadays. Why is that? Allegedly they are orange for entirely political reasons: in the 17th century, Dutch growers are thought to have cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – who led the the struggle for Dutch independence – and the color stuck. A thousand years of yellow, white and purple carrot history, was wiped out in a generation. [pullquote] Dutch growers are thought to have cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – and the color stuck. [/pullquote] Although some scholars doubt if orange carrots even existed prior to the 16th century, they now form the basis of most commercial cultivators around the world. Presumably crosses between Eastern (purple), Western (white, red) and perhaps wild carrots led to the formation of the orange rooted carrot sub species. Turkey is often cited as the original birthplace of the hybrids (or mutations) of the two groups. Whatever the origins, the Long Orange Dutch carrot, first described in writing in 1721, is the forebear of the orange Horn carrot varieties so abundant nowadays. The Horn Carrot derives from the Netherlands town of Hoorn in the neighborhood of which it was presumably bred. All our modern, western carrots ultimately descend from these varieties. Hypernature avant la lettre. Update april 2020: Since the original story was published in 2009, new genetic research concludes the Dutch probably cultivated the orange carrot in the 16 century already – Holland was the leading agricultural nation at the time and it would take decades for a new variety to stabilize. After the Dutch adopted orange as its the national color, the orange carrots was added to the list of items “dedicated” to the royal family. The orange carrot came first - the Royal family dedication second. Source: Carrot Museum (original 2009 source).

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28 comments

  • Thank you so much for your research; I would never have thought of carrots as anything but orange, now I have to see if I can find the other varieties. I know that tomatoes come in different colors and those are coming back as Heritage Tomatoes. It's strange eating a white tomato that tastes like a red one; we usually think of white tomatoes as just beginning to ripen. Thanks again for all your hard work. God Bless, Charlotte

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  • Please do quote the World Carrot Museum as your source. These "quotes" are NOT true and not sourced from the Museum 1. Dutch growers are thought to have cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – who led the the struggle for Dutch independence – and the color stuck. - the dutch myth is exploded in the Museum - there is NO documentary evidence for it. 2. Presumably crosses between Eastern (purple), Western (white, red) and perhaps wild carrots led to the formation of the orange rooted carrot sub species. Orange carrots were developed from yellow varieties. Current genetic research has prove this categorically. Orange varieties probably originated in Spain from seeds and plants from the Arab world. Yellow White and Purple carrots have not been "wiped out in a generation" - where did this "fact" come from? All SIX colours regularly appear in stores and farmers markets, week in and out!

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    • Sure John, the colored carrots were grown and available in many regions of the world. But am I right to think the have become more popular in supermarkets over the last decade, or is that just my perceptual bias?

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    • Not strictly true. That archived page actually shows a photo of the multi colored carrots. I have been growing them since before the millenium and have been in the stores since then.

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    • Thank you for pointing this out John. Please note that this story was written over 10 years ago and back then the Carrot Museum page it sources had less information. https://web.archive.org/web/20090321072932/http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/history5.html I have now updated the page with the updated information that the orange carrot was most probably bred by the Dutch long before orange became their national color. Hope this is helpful. Also it is is striking that today you can find multiple colors in supermarkets. In 2009 when the story was written it was orange all over. Same with tomatoes that back then were mainly Ferrari red, but can nowadays be bought in many more sizes and colors. It is good to see diversity increased there.

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  • What does the wind do?

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  • It is true there is a whole variety of colors. Now it doesn't mean that orange is bad. Actually the orange comes from a pigment called Beta-carotens what is the precursor of many importante molecules for human health such as Vit A. Having said that, it is also very important to protect the biodiversity and try to protect, in this case, the carrots that have a different coloration.

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  • We stumbled over here by a different web address and thought I should check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to checking out your web page again.

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  • Great article! This is tthe kind of info that should be shared across the net. Shame on the search engines for now not positioning this submit higher! Come on over and discuss with my site . Thank you =)

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  • carrot is my fav food for ever

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  • Ha. And then people say genetically engineered food is evil.

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  • I wonder if the different colours have different levels of carotene?

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  • Um...don't your writers read their own sources properly? How do you take a source that says this story is likely a myth, and then repost it as being a truth, here? What...the...heck? Yeah, people have done a lot to mess up the natural order of things, including carrots, but you don't need to take a cutesy myth to make some kind of point. Just say, "humankind is screwing up the carrots." 'Nuf said, without the lies. More dangerous than irresponsible carrot breeding is irresponsible story-telling and reporting.

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  • "A tale, probably apocryphal, has it that the orange carrot was bred in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century to honour William of Orange."

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  • Here in california we get all color varieties from the local/organic farms/markets. It was shocking to walk into the store and see purple, red, and white carrots bunched together for the first time. Now they're all we buy.

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  • William of Orange "led" the struggle for Dutch independence, not "lead."

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  • i love carrots!

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  • In response to the last comment, I believe that many fruits and vegetables serve the parts of the body they re-present. Check out some info I wrote about it and then feel free to find out more ... http://www.sensationalebooks.com/blog/?p=9

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  • Nice story. Too bad it's just nonsense. Just read your source once again...

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  • For those who have a garden: you can still purchase carrot seeds that produce a mix of orange, purple, white and yellow carrots. 'De nieuwe tuin' (The new garden) in Belgium sells them. My last year's harvest was rather poor though, but that might be due to weather conditions....

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  • That's bullshit. They're orange now due to domestication not as a tribute to William of Orange.

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  • @Arnound - Actually I currently live in Asia. I can get Yellow and Purple carrots here, just as easily as orange ones. I generally find the yellow ones are smaller and thinner then the orange but they have a milder somewhat sweeter flavor and a softer texture. The purple ones have a more robust flavor and are very dense, so i generally need to steam them before eating. Others may have had different experiences.

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  • DC

    Cool wallpaper/background!!!

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  • Wow.... great historical information. Thanks for sharing.

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  • Good one - I love quirky articles like this that provide good insight on foods! :)

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  • The article you link to (the carrot museum) is actually claiming that this tale is apocryphal... As a Dutch guy I would like it to be true though...

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  • What a wonderful photo, yall should make high resolution version available.

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  • The purple ones are regularly available at my local Sainsbury's when in season. Nice taste, but make the water turn purple while cooking

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  • As an Indian In the Netherlands, I have seen both red and orange carrots. In India, the red variety is predominant, specially in the North. The red carrots are larger, much sweeter, and have more juice, so are primarily used in salads and juices. The orange variety is blander and used for cooking, because its less mushy when cooked. The Dutch version is closer to the second category. Oh and the purple ones taste different, and supposedly are good for stomach problems. No idea about white ones. Just my 2 cents :)

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  • A similar thing has also happened with apples and pears. Isabella Dalla Ragione is trying to recover these "lost varieties" and cultivate them in her garden in the North of Italy. She scans remote areas to find varieties and uses Renaissance paintings to identify them.

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  • Does color say anything about how the different carrots taste? Perhaps the orange ones are the sweetest. Or is that just a big lobby by a rabbit called Bugs?

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