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Re: [Apicius] re:Beets and root crops

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  • Heather Rose Jones
    ... A natural mutation which, presumably, later growers selected for. Look at the vast array of vegetable colors you can find these days at gourmet groceries:
    Message 1 of 5 , Oct 18, 2000
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      >No - you have not been misled. Life is kind of
      >funny, but I just read an article on this too!
      >Unfortunately I don't recall where it was, but I
      >think it was in Gourmet magazine. Anyway, back
      >in Roman times there were supposedly only two
      >colors of carrots - white and red. The red ones
      >came from the east (I want to say from the
      >Parthia area, but am not certain). The white
      >ones came from the areas around Italy and Italy
      >proper. In fact, the article said that the white
      >carrots were more like parsnips and suggested
      >that they be used instead in Roman dishes.
      >However, for the life of me I can't remember ever
      >reading HOW carrots became orange!


      A natural mutation which, presumably, later growers selected for.
      Look at the vast array of vegetable colors you can find these days at
      gourmet groceries: bell peppers in orange and purple, chard with
      orange and yellow and red stems, tomatoes with a wide variety of ripe
      colorings; white eggplants (including the small egg-sized ones that
      originally gave rise to the name) alongside purple ones. These sorts
      of mutations probably pop up all the time, and only those favored by
      the current tastes will be propagated and fixed.

      Of course, color isn't everything -- there are more differences
      between parsnips and carrots than simply color, so to suggest that
      Roman carrots can be best approximated by parsnips ignores flavor and
      texture and focuses solely on color.


      >IMHO I try to be as accurate as humanly possible,
      >but as you point out in the carrots example, we
      >have no idea of knowing what all the ingredients
      >really looked like and how they tasted. This
      >will of course change the way our dishes taste
      >and look. For those of us in the USA (those
      >buying from a store anyway) I think we have more
      >of a hindrance than those living in Europe. Our
      >government, and to some extent the food
      >suppliers, are always putting "stuff" into out
      >foods to make them last longer, enhance the color
      >&/or flavor, and so on. From what I have been
      >told/read and heard that is not how it is in
      >Europe - but I may be wrong. So it seems to me
      >that those who live in Europe have a better
      >chance of being accurate than we do.


      What you can get in the US depends enormously on where you live. I
      have the great grocery luck to live in the San Francisco Bay Area,
      where not only am I smack dab in the middle of the best
      produce-producing region on the continent, but I'm in an area where
      there's enough interest in varietal, organic, and "gourmet"
      vegetables that you can find almost anything you can imagine to want.
      And, of course, you can get access to a lot of varietal produce if
      you're willing to grow it yourself. It's true that the most
      commonly-available varieties will tend to have been bred for things
      like long shelf-life and undamaged transport (the "plastic tomato"
      being the most notorious example around here) but that's purely
      economics, not government policy.

      Agricultural crops have been being modified by the people growing
      them continuously since the field was invented in the Stone Age, so
      it isn't at all surprising that the varieties of vegetables we have
      now are different than they were two thousand years ago. In many
      cases, though, the older genetic material is still around and can be
      brought out through careful and selective breeding ... but only if
      you know what you're trying to breed _for_. Things like color are
      fairly superficial -- they tend to derive from a small number of
      genes that can easily be manipulated -- but it's harder to even know
      what differences in flavor or texture there may have been, since
      those things are less likely to have been described in a detailed,
      objective way.

      Heather
      --
      *****
      Heather Rose Jones
      hrjones@...
      *****
    • Elizabeth Carman
      Hello, I m new to this group, but so far the discussion has been fascinating. I just wanted to mention, in regards to the black and white beets, that I had
      Message 2 of 5 , Oct 18, 2000
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        Hello,
        I'm new to this group, but so far the discussion has been fascinating.
        I just wanted to mention, in regards to the black and white beets, that
        I had read that carrots have only recently been orange. I may be
        totally misled on this (it was in the local newspaper). This adds
        another dimension to recreating ancient cuisine, though. how do you to
        recreate the look - color, texture, and presentation - as well as the
        taste. Or do you bother?

        Elizabeth
      • Correus
        Elizabeth, ... WELCOME!!!!! ... No - you have not been misled. Life is kind of funny, but I just read an article on this too! Unfortunately I don t recall
        Message 3 of 5 , Oct 19, 2000
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          Elizabeth,

          > I'm new to this group, but so far the
          > discussion has been fascinating.>>

          WELCOME!!!!!

          > I just wanted to mention, in regards to the
          > black and white beets, that
          > I had read that carrots have only recently been
          > orange. I may be
          > totally misled on this (it was in the local
          > newspaper).>>

          No - you have not been misled. Life is kind of
          funny, but I just read an article on this too!
          Unfortunately I don't recall where it was, but I
          think it was in Gourmet magazine. Anyway, back
          in Roman times there were supposedly only two
          colors of carrots - white and red. The red ones
          came from the east (I want to say from the
          Parthia area, but am not certain). The white
          ones came from the areas around Italy and Italy
          proper. In fact, the article said that the white
          carrots were more like parsnips and suggested
          that they be used instead in Roman dishes.
          However, for the life of me I can't remember ever
          reading HOW carrots became orange!

          > This adds another dimension to recreating
          > ancient cuisine, though. how do you to
          > recreate the look - color, texture, and
          > presentation - as well as the taste. Or do you
          > bother? >>

          LOL This has been debated by a few of us on and
          off this list (perhaps you have now opened anther
          can of worms).

          IMHO I try to be as accurate as humanly possible,
          but as you point out in the carrots example, we
          have no idea of knowing what all the ingredients
          really looked like and how they tasted. This
          will of course change the way our dishes taste
          and look. For those of us in the USA (those
          buying from a store anyway) I think we have more
          of a hindrance than those living in Europe. Our
          government, and to some extent the food
          suppliers, are always putting "stuff" into out
          foods to make them last longer, enhance the color
          &/or flavor, and so on. From what I have been
          told/read and heard that is not how it is in
          Europe - but I may be wrong. So it seems to me
          that those who live in Europe have a better
          chance of being accurate than we do.

          Anyway, it all boils down to one simple fact - we
          were not there. We have no way of knowing what
          the food really tasted like, smelled like, or
          looked like.

          So, yes, I "bother" in trying to make it as
          accurate as I can, but I don't "bother" when it
          comes to tiny details such as the color of a
          carrot. Besides, I have a hard enough time
          getting people to try my Roman dishes as it is.
          If I tried to introduce white carrots, instead of
          what they are use to, it might just make it
          harder for them to try the dish.

          Just my thoughts,

          Larry


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        • jdm314@aol.com
          In a message dated 10/19/00 10:05:44 AM, you wrote:
          Message 4 of 5 , Oct 19, 2000
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            In a message dated 10/19/00 10:05:44 AM, you wrote:

            <<No - you have not been misled. Life is kind of
            funny, but I just read an article on this too!
            Unfortunately I don't recall where it was, but I
            think it was in Gourmet magazine. Anyway, back
            in Roman times there were supposedly only two
            colors of carrots - white and red. The red ones
            came from the east (I want to say from the
            Parthia area, but am not certain). The white
            ones came from the areas around Italy and Italy
            proper. In fact, the article said that the white
            carrots were more like parsnips and suggested
            that they be used instead in Roman dishes.
            However, for the life of me I can't remember ever
            reading HOW carrots became orange!
            >>

            I can't find my original source on this, but I read that indeed white carrots
            came from Persia, and orange carrots were created by crossbreeding them with
            the European variety in ... I think it was the 1100s?
            Mark Grant mentions in The Roman Cookery that "In Roman times carrots had
            a rather woody centre. The paler core in modern carrots furnishes a record of
            this horticultural history. The Roman carrot was also white, which is why it
            is bracketed with parsnips in this and other recipes." Indeed the ROmans
            often substituted one for the other, which makes we wonder just how distinct
            the flavors were. I'm only vaguely familiar with the taste of parsnips, but I
            seem to recall that they taste like a cross between a carrot and a
            sweetpotato. Is that about right? Pehaps (and mind you, I said perhaps) it
            woudl be safer to substitute parsnips than to use orange carrots.
            What do you think?

            IVSTINVS

            ps. Are white carrots totally extinct, or might some heirloom gardens still
            grow them?
          • Correus
            JDM, ... Hmmmm...I could have sworn I read the red ones came from that area of the world! Oh well...a carrot by any other name...... ... I have read this in
            Message 5 of 5 , Oct 20, 2000
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              JDM,

              > I can't find my original source on this, but I
              > read that indeed white carrots
              > came from Persia,...>>

              Hmmmm...I could have sworn I read the red ones
              came from that area of the world! Oh well...a
              carrot by any other name......

              > ..."In Roman times carrots had
              > a rather woody centre. >>

              I have read this in another account other than
              Grant's work (man - I have got to get my notes
              organized better!).

              > The Roman carrot was also white, which is why
              > it is bracketed with parsnips in this and other
              > recipes." Indeed the ROmans often substituted
              > one for the other, which makes we wonder just
              > how distinct the flavors were.>>

              Personally, IMHO, I can tell a difference between
              a carrot and a parsnip. To me the flavors or
              very distinct (the parsnip is a little more
              earthy). However, way back then there may have
              been no real difference in taste.

              > I'm only vaguely familiar with the taste of
              > parsnips, but I seem to recall that they taste
              > like a cross between a carrot and a
              > sweetpotato. Is that about right? >>

              Well, I happen to love parsnips. I have never
              really noticed a similarity in taste between it
              and a sweetpotato. Perhaps I ought to buy a few
              tonight and compare them to a sweetpotato.

              > ...mind you, I said perhaps) it woudl be safer
              > to substitute parsnips than to use orange
              > carrots. >>

              To me it is not that big of a deal. However, I
              belive that someone on this list was quite
              adamant about NOT using parsnips in place of
              carrots. I really don't think it would matter
              that much.

              > ps. Are white carrots totally extinct, or might
              > some heirloom gardens still grow them? >>

              Yup - they are still available. The can usually
              be bought through some heirloom seed companies.
              My wife and I bought some a couple years ago
              through the Michigan Bulb Company. I have even
              seen some for sale in more up scale produce
              markets.

              Larry




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