The carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) is a root vegetable, usually orange or white, or red-white blend in color, with a crisp texture when fresh.
Carrots can be eaten raw, whole, chopped, grated, or added to salads for color or texture. They are also often chopped and boiled, fried or steamed, and cooked in soups and stews, as well as fine baby foods and select pet foods.
A well known dish is carrots julienne. Grated carrots are used in carrot cakes, as well as carrot puddings, an old English dish thought to have originated in the early 1800s. The greens are edible as a leaf vegetable, but are rarely eaten by humans. Together with onion and celery, carrots are one of the primary vegetables used in a mirepoix to make various broths.
Ever since the late 1980s, baby carrots or mini-carrots (carrots that have been peeled and cut into uniform cylinders) have been a popular ready-to-eat snack food available in many supermarkets.
Carrot juice is also widely marketed, especially as a health drink, either stand-alone or blended with other fruits and vegetables.
The carrot gets its characteristic and bright orange colour from β-carotene, which on consumption by humans is metabolised into vitamin A. Massive overconsumption of carrots can cause hypercarotenemia, a condition in which the skin turns orange (although this is superior to overdose effects of vitamin A, which can cause liver damage). However, in some extreme cases, it has also been shown to cause tumors in the eyes and ultimately death. Carrots are also rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, and minerals.
Lack of Vitamin A can cause poor vision, including night vision, and vision can be restored by adding Vitamin A back into the diet. The urban legend that says eating large amounts of carrots will allow one to see in the dark developed from stories of British gunners in World War II who were able to shoot down German planes in the darkness of night. The legend arose during the Battle of Britain when the RAF circulated a story about their pilot's carrot consumption as an attempt to cover up the discovery and effective use of radar technologies in engaging enemy planes. It reinforced existing German folklore and helped to encourage Britons - looking to improve their night vision during the blackouts - to grow and eat the vegetable.
Ethnomedically, the roots are used to treat digestive problems, intestinal parasites, and tonsillitis or constipation.
Falcarinol, a seventeen-carbon diyne fatty alcohol was isolated from carrot and red ginseng (Panax ginseng). It was shown to have potent anticancer properties on primary mammary epithelial cells (breast cancer).
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