Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Orange Carrot

Today I ate lunch at the Village Inn family restaurant near the library. As I waited for the waitress to bring my club sandwich and french fries, I flipped through a dessert menu and stopped at the picture of the carrot cake. A little paragraph at the bottom of the page stated that carrots were originally white, yellow, or blue. It further stated that sixteenth-century plant breeders in the Netherlands created an orange variety of carrot in honor of the House of Orange. This account struck me as suspect. I hurried home to investigate.

A quick Google search took me to a UK site called the World Carrot Museum (www.carrotmuseum.com), a treasure trove of information on all things carroty. On their page History of the Carrot Part 5, the connection of the orange carrot to the House of Orange is debunked:

"A tale, probably apocryphal, has it that the orange carrot was bred in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century to honour William of Orange. Though the development and stabilisation of the orange carrot root does appear to date from around that period in the Netherlands, it is unlikely that honouring William of Orange had anything to do with it! Some astute historian managed to install the myth that the work an unexpected mutation was developed especially to thank King William I as a tribute to independence from Spain. Dr T Fernie (Herbal Simples 1875) reported - 'The Dutch Government had no love for the House of Orange: and many a grave burgomaster went so far as to banish from his garden the Orange lily, and Marigold; also the sale of Oranges and Carrots was prohibited in the markets on account of their aristocratic colour.' "

The Village Inn is guilty of propagating a 400-year-old myth. I'll never again believe anything they say about vegetable history.

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