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Is a Carrot a Fruit or Vegetable? (The Answer Isn’t Obvious)
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The carrot is one of the most recognizable foods worldwide because of its distinct shape and color. With its natural sweetness and wide array of nutritional benefits, many people can’t help but wonder what type of superfood it is. But, what is it, really? Is a carrot a fruit or vegetable?
Carrots are vegetables. While you can usually find carrots in cakes, muffins, and cookies like some fruits, they are considered vegetables. Vegetables are plants or plant parts consumed by humans and animals as food — which carrots are. By contrast, fruits are seed-bearing structures found in plants after the flowering process. While this definition classifies carrots as vegetables, let’s discuss their properties in more detail. We will also delve deeper into their history and where they thrive.
The Carrot as a Root Vegetable
Like carrots, potatoes, onions, and parsnips are some of the most popular root vegetables worldwide. Root vegetables are underground plants or plant parts consumed as food. Unlike fruits, these foods don’t look like much above ground — just a bunch of leafy stalks and stems.
However, a quick tug will unearth some of the healthiest, heartiest foods available anywhere. Many experts are elevating the carrots’ status from a humble vegetable to an essential superfood.
Some nutritionists claim carrots are the perfect health food. These crunchy, sweet, nutritious vegetables are full of fiber, antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin A, and potassium. They are famous for their distinct orange color, but the purple, red, yellow, and white variants are just as nutritious.
Carrots are between 86 – 95% water and are not ideal sources of protein and fat. Each 100-gram serving provides 41 calories of mostly carbohydrates like sucrose and glucose. Fruits usually have higher sugar levels and calories than vegetables.
A recent study on carotenoids corroborates data from previous research — the pigments found in carrots have many health benefits. Carotenoids allow carrots to reduce the risk of some cancers, lower blood cholesterol levels, enhance eye health, and boost weight loss.
Studies show that while there is not much difference in carotenoid levels in organic and conventionally-grown carrots, pesticide residue may still lead to harmful effects.
You can eat a carrot on its own or as part of soups, salads, main dishes, or desserts. Carrots are also allowed in most popular diets like keto, paleo, vegan, and more.
However, there may be a side effect in consuming too much beta carotene found in carrots. It may lead to a condition called carotenemia, which tinges the skin with an orange tone. It’s usually harmless but may affect your immune system, vision, and bones in extreme cases.
The History of Carrots: Where Do They Come From?
The carrots you usually find in markets are orange root crops, but the first domesticated carrots from Central Asia in 900 BC were purple and yellow. The first records of groups cultivating carrots as a root crop date back to the tenth century in the Iranian Plateau and Persia.
During the Arab Expansion after the tenth century BC, groups of conquerors introduced carrots to Andalusia, now known as Spain. From there, the popularity of carrots spread to other parts of Europe.
Today, the wild carrot appears in most temperate regions worldwide, far beyond its Asian and Mediterranean origins. Carrot domestication has transformed the forked, bland, and white carrot variety into the smooth, flavorful, and orange one that many people know today. Carrots are now some of the world’s most staple farm commodities. Let’s learn more about where these root vegetables grow best.
Where Do Carrots Grow Best?
Today, you can find hundreds of carrot varieties globally. However, experts classify them in only two distinct categories — wild and cultivated. The wild carrot is native to several areas like Europe, Asia, and North America. Wild carrots are edible, but unlike their domesticated relatives, they grow tough and woody if you don’t eat them right away.
Each carrot variety has specific quirks, but here are some common facts about growing carrots.
Carrots flourish in cool temperatures, particularly during early spring and late fall. However, these superfoods are considered hardy vegetables and can survive temperatures as low as 20˚F. When thawed, carrots will continue growing between freezes.
Carrots will flourish in aquaponic gardens. With the help of a wicking bed, you can grow a vegetable garden with carrots even if you live in a small urban apartment. The best varieties to grow in water are Nantes, Danvers, Imperator, and Chantenay. Setting up a fish tank is the first step in creating an aquaponic garden.
If you want to grow carrots in soil, remove all the rocks, trash, and plant materials within your carrot bed. They grow well in loose, sandy, well-drained loam soil. Carrots grown in heavy soils mature slowly and turn into rough, unattractive roots.
Like all other root crops, carrots require six hours of daily sun exposure. If you’re growing carrots in an aquaponic garden, find a location that gets enough sun exposure or use artificial grow lights to help your plants grow well.
The Conclusion: Is a Carrot a Fruit or Vegetable?
You might find carrots in an extensive selection of drinks and desserts, but they are not fruits. They are root vegetables — some of the most notable ones worldwide. Carrots contain substantial amounts of beta carotene, vitamin A, and potassium. These famous superfoods reduce cancer risks, lower blood cholesterol levels, enhance eye health, and propel weight loss.
It’s not surprising that many people wonder if carrots are fruits or vegetables — both foods provide an abundance of health benefits that can help you achieve your health goals. If you are looking for low-calorie, affordable sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, then carrots, other vegetables, and fruits are ideal for you!