>>Several years ago I was part of a Viking re-enactment group and at one of
>>our demos had purple carrots to show. The person who brought them said
>>that they were 'woodier' then modern carrots. She also explained that it
>>was the Dutch who gave us the modern orange carrot. According to her, they
>>developed it as a compliement to their ruling house, the House of Orange.
>>I haven't had an opportunity to check that last bit of information out,
>>but, hey, it makes a great hook for kids at a demo.
>LOL! That story seemed just too good to be true, so I made a quick look.
>But every site I've gone to has repeated the same carrot chronicle. No
>sources, of course, so it's not gospel, and I'll still be looking in my
>copious spare time. Thanks very much.
I'm away from my library at the moment, but this story _does_ sound rather more like an explanation made up afterward than anything else.
My recollection, from studying the evolution of food plants in general (putting on my MS in botany hat here), is that in the Middle Ages, carrots could be purple, orange, yellow, red or white, and that the dominance of orange carrots nowadays is more a function of large-scale commercial growers than anything else. In modern times, certain types of carrots are better suited for large-scale growing and harvesting, so that's what is mostly grown -- the same narrowing of the range of varieties available has happened to tomatoes, bananas and other crops. I'll have to see if my sources say anything about whether the dominance of orange varieties came about during or after our period, but I suspect the latter.
All of the colors I mentioned are certainly within the genetic "repertoire" of carrots, so I'd be surprised if orange carrots _didn't_ exist at an early date -- though they may not have necessarily been the dominant type. I'd also be skeptical about them being inherently more tender and less woody -- I don't think those characters are genetically linked to color.
Purple, red or white carrots, of course, _are_ a fun thing to surprise people with who don't know much about the Middle Ages.
(Lady) Christian de Holacombe
0 Chris Laning
+ Davis, California