Orange and carrots go together like yellow and bananas, like red and apples, like orange and oranges… but it’s a fairly new look. Throughout history carrots were primarily purple or white. The orange carrots we know and love really only became prominent in the 1600s in northern Europe.
Actually, the historical development of the modern domestic carrot is not fully understood. What they do know is that the orange supermarket carrot is a different species from the original purple carrots of Asia and Afghanistan. There are varying theories of how it made the journey, but the best guess suggests that through either hybrid breeding or mutation, it became orange in Turkey then traveled up to Europe.
Another theory suggest it was the Dutch people who boosted the orange carrot to popularity. Orange was the patriotic colour of the fight for Dutch independence at the time, so some say the carrots were welcomed as a stick-it-to-the-man side dish.
Another tid-bit clouding the history of carrot colouring is a document from 512 AD depicting an orange carrot. In earlier history there have been both red and yellow carrots, so it’s possible that the colour of the drawing was a little off (or changed while sitting around for 1500 years), but perhaps orange was a natural variation that popped up.
The orange colour in carrots is caused by carotene pigment, also found in pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, and apricots but also several non-orange plants like broccoli and spinach. For us humans, carotene is a source of vitamin A.
So ya… carrots… full of orangey goodness for just 500 years.