© Copyright 1995-2017, Clay Irving <email@example.com>, Manhattan Beach, CA USA
Carrots are a taproot, a type of root which grows downwards into the soil and swells. Carrots come in many sizes and shapes: round, cylindrical, fat, very small, long or thin.
Native to Afghanistan, carrots were known to both the Greeks and Romans. In fact, the Greeks called the carrot "Philtron" and used it as a love medicine--making men more ardent and women more yielding. The Roman emperor Caligula, believing these stories, forced the whole Roman Senate to eat carrots so he could see them "in rut like wild beasts."
India, China, and Japan had established carrots as a food crop by the 13th century. In Europe, however, they were not well known until well into the Middle Ages. At that time, doctors prescribed them for everything from sexual maladies to snakebite--which some would argue, are biblically connected. In Holland, the original red, purple, black, yellow, and white varietals were hybridized to today's bright orange, with its potent dose of beta carotene.
From thence, carrots moved to England, during Elizabethan times. Some Elizabethans ate the roots as food; others used their feathery stalks to decorate their hair, their hats, their dresses, and their coats.
Carrots arrived in the New World with the early colonists, but they were allowed to escape cultivation and subsequently turned into the omnipresent and delicate wild flower Queen Anne's Lace. If you doubt it, pull up a plant by the roots and surprise your nose with its carroty smell.
The folk belief that carrots enable one to see in the dark--or at least improve vision--enabled the British Royal Air Force to disguise its use of radar from the Germans during World War II. The story goes that the Air Force bragged that the great accuracy of British fighter pilots at night was a result of them being fed enormous quantities of carrots--and the Germans bought it because their folk wisdom included the same myth.