[Sca-cooks] Carrots was roman feast / Apicius

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Sun Mar 23 13:39:04 PDT 2008

> According to the "Oxford Companion to Food" purple carrots originated
> in Central Asia in or near present day Afghanistan and were brought
> west during the Muslim expansion. It states that the first known
> clear description of the carrot comes from the Arab writer
> Ibn-al_Awam who was writing in 12th century Andalusia at the time
> where the carrot had already been introduced.
> However, it also states that the archeological record indicates that
> carrot seed was found in prehistoric dwellings in Switzerland and was
> reportedly grown as an aromatic herb (for it's leaves and seeds most
> likely) in the royal gardens in Babylon in the 8th century. It goes
> on to state that if the Greeks and Romans used carrots in the
> Classical Period that they were likely used as an herb as there is
> little to no evidence to suggest they ate the roots.
> The carrot had spread to most of the rest of Continental Europe by
> the 14th century and Britain by the 15th. The orange carrots we know
> today are of Dutch origin and were selectively bread in the 17th and
> 18th centuries for that color.
> Dragon

Dragon, I hate to tell you this, but I think you'll find most of this 
information out in the Florilegium in a bunch of messages signed Bear.  I've 
been doing this kind of historical research for 25 or so years.

Ibn al Awam is more correctly Yahya ibn Muhammad ibn al-Awwam (or Awam) and 
the text referenced is the Kitab al-Felahah (Book of
Agriculture).  There is no English translation of the text that I have 
found, but it is translated into French in  CLÉMENT-MULLET, J.-J. (Übers.): 
Le Livre de l'Agriculture d'Ibn-al-Awam (Kitab al-Felahah), traduit de 
l'arabe, 2 Bde. (Bd.2 in 2 Teilen), Paris (Franck) 1864-1867, 657 + 460 
(+24) + 293 S.

There is supposed to be a 10th Century reference to yellow carrots in 
Anatolia that I have been trying to track down.  It's referenced a couple of 

The carrot of the Swiss lake dwellings is probably D. carota ssp. carota, 
Queen Anne's Lace.  Babylon is 8th Century BCE rather than 8th Century and, 
IIRC, the reference is from a list of plants grown in the gardens translated 
about 30 years ago.  The history of the carrot in the Classic Period is best 
covered by reading Andrews, Alfred C., "The Carrot as a Food in the 
Classical Era;" Classical Philology, Vol. 44, No. 3 (July, 1949), pp. 

The carrot appears in Charlemange's Capitulare, so it was being grown and 
used in 9th Century Europe.  This is probably a domesticated form of Queen 
Anne's Lace.  Red and yellow carrots were probably in general use in Europe 
as early as the 13th Century.

The modern orange carrot was probably being bred in the 16th Century, but it 
wasn't until the 17th Century that the five to seven strains that make up 
the line were recorded.  Curiously, there is some evidence for an earlier 
orange carrot around 1100 in the Bodelian MS. Ashmole 1431, Folios 21v-22r 
with what appears to be drawings of orange colored carrots on those pages. 
John Stolarczyk, the carrot expert, was kind enough to direct me to the 

John was also directed me to Brandenburg, Willem A., "Possible relationships 
between wild and cultivated carrots (Daucus carota L.) in the Netherlands;" 
Kulturpflanze, Vol. XXIX, (1981), pp 369-375, which addresses issues with 
the identification of carrots in paintings, genetics and the relationship 
between wild and cultivated carrots in the Dutch hybridization.

Another interesting source for information on carrots as well as other 
vegetables is Sturtevant, E. Lewis, "History of Garden Vegetables;" The 
American Naturalist, Vol. 21, No. 6 (June, 1887).


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