Carrot (Daucus carota)
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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. The edible part of a carrot is a taproot. It is a domesticated form of the wild carrot Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia. It has been bred for its greatly enlarged and more palatable, less woody-textured edible taproot, but is still the same species.
It is a biennial plant which grows a rosette of leaves in the spring and summer, while building up the stout taproot, which stores large amounts of sugars for the plant to flower in the second year. The flowering stem grows to about 1 m tall, with an umbel of white flowers.
Carrots can be eaten raw, whole, chopped, grated, or added to salads for colour 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 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). Carrots are also rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, and minerals.