From crunchy raw sticks dipped in hummus to steaming slices drenched with melted butter, and fluffy cake smothered in cream cheese frosting, carrots are delicious in many guises – and they’re packed with nutrients too.

It’s only right, then, that we celebrate Bugs Bunny’s favourite vegetable, with International Carrot Day on April 4.

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But there’s more to the popular root vegetable than just tasty dishes. Carrots have a fascinating – and somewhat controversial – history.

9 carrots facts

To mark the annual event, here are nine fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about carrots…

1. Carrots weren’t originally orange

Heirloom carrots
(Alamy/PA)

The carrots sold in supermarkets are almost exclusively orange, but the earliest documented plants produced purple, yellow or white varieties.

There’s some dispute about whether Dutch horticulturalists bred orange carrots in the 16th century to honour of William of Orange (the man who led the Dutch quest for independence), but whatever the reason, the new colour became dominant. You could say, back then, orange was the new purple…

2. They originate in Asia

Now popular worldwide, the carrot as we know it today was first grown in Afghanistan in the 10th century. The first reference to the veggie being grown in the UK on a field-scale was in Somerset in the 1600s.

3. There’s a huge range of carrot varieties

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Taylar 💚 (@taylarstinygarden)

Today, there are hundreds of types of carrots varying in colour and size. And they’ve got some rather unusual names, such as Solar Yellow, Red Elephant, Purple Dragon, Five-Star Baby and Little Fingers.

4. Baby carrots are (mostly) fake

Baby carrots cooked in honey
(Alamy/PA)

The bags of smooth, peeled, uniformly shaped ‘baby’ carrots you see in supermarkets are usually cut from full-size carrots for the convenience of shoppers.

However, genuine baby carrots – harvested before they reach maturity – do exist. You can identify a true baby if it’s got its skin on, and a defined ‘shoulder’ section at the top.

5. Carrots are mostly water

While they’re brilliantly bright in colour, carrots are made up of 88% water, which is why old, dried out carrots lose their crunch.

6. They might help you see in the dark

The old adage about carrots helping you see in the dark is said to have come about during the World War II, when the UK’s Ministry of Food wanted the public to believe the success of night-time air raids was down to pilots’ munching lots of the veggies, which are rich in a nutrient called beta-carotene.

However, it’s not quite as simple as that. Beta-carotene has been shown to help improve night vision, but only in people who have a vitamin A deficiency, which is unlikely nowadays in developed countries.

7. Cooking carrots makes them healthier

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ottolenghi Homecooking (@tanya.mushanova)

Beta-carotene is used by the body to make vitamin A, an important nutrient in terms of vision, skin health and the immune system. While some nutrients (such as vitamin C) can be lost through cooking, a study found that cooked carrots, rather than raw ones, actually led to higher absorption of beta-carotene.

8. Eat too many, and you may turn yellow

As you might expect, consuming large quantities of carrots won’t turn you orange. It could, however, results in carotenemia, when an excess of beta-carotene gives the skin a yellow-ish tinge.

9. There’s an annual carrot festival

 
 
 
 
 
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The city of Holtville in California, where carrots are a major agricultural crop, has declared itself the Carrot Capital of the World. In February, residents celebrated the 75th anniversary of the city’s annual Carrot Festival, which included a carnival and parade.

Best-selling carrot seeds

Interested in growing your own carrots? Check out our list of best-selling carrot seeds!

Bestseller No. 1
Simply Garden Carrot Early Nantes Fresh Vegetable Seeds Grow Your Own Garden
  • Grow your own vegetables
  • This seed produces blunt ended carrots with excellent flavour
  • Grow your own vegetables
Bestseller No. 2
Mr Fothergill's 15293 Resistafly F1 Carrot Seeds
  • The variety to grow where carrot fly is a problem
  • British bred, high quality, sweet 'Nantes' type
  • Excellent source of vitamin A and antioxidants
SaleBestseller No. 3
PREMIER SEEDS DIRECT - Carrot - RESISTAFLY F1-1300 Finest Seeds
  • Best sown straight in the ground and then thinned in stages to obtain the correct distance apart. Never plant in cold or weedy soil as carrots are difficult to weed once established. Carrots are...
  • Make successive plantings every three weeks but avoid the hottest part of the summer. Sow in drills about 2cm deep and 15cm apart. With this spacing the foliage of adjacent plants will make a dense...
  • When sowing seeds, try to space them 1cm apart. The tiny seeds make spacing difficult, but it will be easier to thin without disturbing the plants you plan to leave, if there is a little space between...
Bestseller No. 4
Johnsons 21445 Vegetable Seeds, Carrot Chantenay Red Cored 2
  • Good yielding
  • Crunchy flesh and small core
  • Can be harvested from a small size and will store well
Bestseller No. 5
PREMIER SEEDS DIRECT - Vegetable Carrot Rainbow Mix F1 440 Finest Seeds
  • Dig or till the carrot bed deeply when the soil is on the dry side to avoid making lumps. Work the soil to a fine texture 15-25 cm (6-10 in.) deep to allow the carrot roots to grow long and shapely....
  • Sow seed thinly in rows, 1 cm (1/2 in.) deep, 30-40 cm (12-16 in.) between the rows as soon as the danger of hard frost has passed. Try to get about 4 seeds per 2 cm (1 in.).
  • Thin to 16-20 carrots per 30 cm (1 ft.) for fresh eating whilst small and 6-10 carrots per 30 cm (1 ft.) for mid season crops, depending on the root size you want, and keep weeded and watered.

Last update on 2022-05-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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