Carrots (Daucus Carota)

Carrots growing in a garden, if allowed to escape and grown on their own, will revert back to its wild variety in just a few years. Its wild ancestor is known as Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus Carota) - the beautiful white lacey flower adorning dry, abandoned fields.  It is commonly named after the Queen Anne of England who was a talented lace maker. It is said that the center purple/red bloom on the flower is stained so after Queen Anne pricked her finger while making lace. This wild carrot is edible but don't try it unless you are sure, poison hemlock is a close look alike. Carrot blooms were used in ancient communities to increase fertility in women and in men to increase desire. The ancient Greeks had a love potion made from carrots as they believed it had a property to inspire love and "serv(ed) for love matters." Carrots seeds & flowers use to be considered an aphrodisiac. Although, this directly contradicts the laster use of wild carrot as a birth control method. This is partially true because carrots block the production of a essential baby-making hormone, progesterone.

Carrot drawings & paintings have been discovered in the tombs of the pharaohs from the 3rd millennium and was depicted as an important plant for them. One pharaoh around 2000 B.C was depicted holding what is believe to be a purple carrot. In Babylon they were cultivated for the fragrant flowers and foliage of the plant, rather than the root. The roots of carrots originally occurred in a variety of colors from yellow, to red, to purple but surprisingly not orange. It was rare for there to be an orange carrot. Orange carrots were selected for long ago because the color was less likely to tint the color soups and stews. Although, at one point, the Dutch became known for having the most vibrant and delicious butter.  The Dutch said the trick of the trade was to feed the cows orange carrots to give butter vibrant color, which they did regularly. 

Carrots have numerous health benefits but none so widely spoken about as the benefits for the eyes. Carrots even provided a coverup for the initial use of radar technologies in war planes during the Battle of Britain. The Brits claimed that the consumption of carrots was responsible for their ability to shoot down German planes in the dark, instead of the new radar technologies. This has some science to support it because the large amounts of beta-carotenes in carrots gets converted into Vitamin A, which through several processes, is converted into a purple pigment (rhodopsin) essential in night vision.

Carrots even played a roll in English fashion. During the reign of James the I (around the early 1600s) women use to adorn their head-dresses with plumes of carrot foliage because of the resemblance to feathers. 

Carrots, of course, have many health benefits. One of them being a fabulous source of antioxidants (specifically lycopene) which helps offset heart disease, cancer, cataracts, tumor growth, and aging. Another anti-cancer compound in carrots is falcarinol, a natural pesticide made by the carrots to protect its roots. Carrots have high levels of beta-carotenes which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotenes help protect against macular degeneration and eye cataracts, people have a 40% decreased risk of these aliments if they consume large amounts of beta-carotenes. Vitamin A provides benefits to your skin and helps against anti-aging because of the tendency to prevent wrinkles, pigmentation, acne, dry skin, and protects against the sun. Carrots also have the most amount of sugar in a vegetable, second only to beets. This is not unhealthy, white sugar, but essential natural sugars your body needs. People use to consume carrot seeds slightly bruised as good roughage for the digestive track but carrots themselves are carminatives, which help aid digestion. 

Listen to you Grandma, eat your carrots.

"Carrots were so highly valued as an aphrodisiac in ancient Roman that, in memorable instance of voyeuristic extremity, the emperor Caligula invited the entire Roman senate to dine and fed them a banquet composed solely of carrot cuisine, so that he might have occasion to observe them "rutting like animals."- Alluring Lettuces by Jack Staub pg 146.

Information from:

Alluring Lettuces and Other Seductive Vegetables for Your Garden by Jack Staub

The Folk-lore of Plants by Dyer & T.F. Thiselton

American Household Botany by Judith Sumner

Plant lore, legends, and lyries. by Richard Folkard