Common name: Carrot, Gajar
A universal vegetable like Potatoes, Carrots are used in cuisines all over the world in various forms. The plant looks very interesting, with beautifully compound, dissected leaves standing above the ground. Carrot plants can grow to a height of 1-1.5 meters depending on the species.
It is a biennial plant that produces flowers during the second year. But most plants grown commercially are considered annuals, since the carrots are harvested in the first year itself. It usually takes 80-120 days for carrots to mature after the seedlings sprout.
Carrot are mostly orangish-red in color though there are variants with purple, white, yellow and red colors as well. Shape of most carrots are conical with a wide shoulder and a pointy tip. But some variants are spherical or cylindrical as well.
Younger the carrot, the more sweeter and juicier it would be. The outer part of the carrot is called phloem and the inner core is the xylem, responsible for moving water and nutrients to the plant. Newer and better hybrids are available where the inner core is kept to a minimum, since they can become woody and bland as the carrot matures.
Carrot plants produce bunches of beautiful white flowers during the second year, having 5 petals and 5 stamens in the center. These flowers contain abundant nectar which attracts pollinating bees, insects and butterflies. These flowers later form small fruits containing seeds inside.
Most cuisines all over the world use carrots in some form or the other, cooked, braised, steamed, fried or eaten raw. They are used in salads, broths, soups, stews, jams, jellies and much more. One of the popular desserts of India, Gajar ka halwa is made by cooking carrots in milk till it’s soft and then adding dry fruits to it. They are also used in sambhar, pulav, vegetable stews and soups.
The species Daucus carota is the wild carrot, which was mainly used for its leaves and flowers since the taproot is quite woody. Daucus carota subsp. sativus is the domesticated version which is commonly used.
Carrots are rich in vitamins, minerals and they are a good source of antioxidants. They contain good amounts of Vitamin A, lack of which can cause blindness. Hence carrots are said to improve vision.
They are also said to prevent prostrate cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis. Carrots also improve immunity, bone and heart health.
Propagation is through seeds, and through roots or actual carrots that sprout if they are planted.
Image credits: Farmizen.com