CARROT (Daucus carota – Umbelliferae)

Carrots have become one of the world’s most important root vege¬tables, and are rich in nutritive and curative properties. They originated in Afghanistan, and were known to the Greeks and Romans. The wild variety spread all over Europe, and can still be found, mainly in chalky soils near the sea; the roots are whitish, small, hard and elongated, with an acrid pungent aroma. The cultivated variety – the familiar orange tubular shape, Daucus carota spp. sativus – was not developed until the seventeenth century, by the Dutch. The flesh is crisp, and has a sweet, pleasing aroma and taste. The leaves are finely divided and feathery. On the continent, carrots can also be found which are white, deep purple and red.

Carrots and parsnips are both umbellifers, and for centuries they shared the same name, together with anise, chervil, both types of fennelparsley and rather more alarmingly, the poisonous hemlock. The wild flower, Queen Anne’s lace, which grows so enthusiastically along roadsides in the New World, is the wild carrot, brought there by colonists from England. Carrots are hardy biennials, and are among the easiest of vegetables to grow at home.
In France in the sixteenth century, carrots were prescribed as a remedy because of their carminative, stomachic and hepatic properties. They were grated and used on ulcers, and have been thought of ever since as a blood cleanser, the panacea for liver and skin problems, all the pulmonary conditions, allergies, inflammation of the intestines, and as a tonic for the nervous system. They are said to be good for eyesight too: pilots in the Second World War were issued the vegetable to help their night vision.


Description: It is the small hairy seeds that are crushed for the essential oil. Apart from in therapy, the oil from carrot seeds is used in perfumery. It is yellowish orange in colour, very fluid, and smells like a spicy, peppery carrot. Most of the carrot oil used in therapy comes from Europe.
The principal constituents: acetic acids, alephatic aldehyde, carotal, B-carotene, cineol, formic acid, limonene, pinene and terpineol.


In illness
The carrot, wild or cultivated, is one of the best possible vegetables to eat as it contains so many important vitamins and minerals: vitamin A and carotene, the B complex vitamins plus vitamins C, D, E and K; as well as copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur. It also contains easily digested sugar, levulose and dextrose.

Carrots are rich in carotene (the precursor of vitamin A) and, according to the work of Dr Leclerc and that of Artault de Vevey (at the end of the last century), this reinforces the body’s immune (or defensive) system. They should be eaten every day because of their many therapeutic properties – at least 150 – 200 g (5 – 7 oz). Carrots eaten during lactation help to stimulate a good flow of milk. Carrots are good for liver problems, diarrhoea, constipation (they are rich in fibre), anaemia and rheumatism.

A carrot and fennel water can soothe a colicky baby: boil 2 carrots in 300 ml (1/2 pint) water with a few fennel fronds, for 10- 15 minutes, strain, cool and add a drop of honey. Nothing is better for the teething baby than a chunk of carrot on which to chew: the natural oils help soothe the inflamed gums (under no circumstances rub the essential oil on the baby’s gums)
(See also broken veins and capillaries, burns, coughing, impetigo and mouth ulcers.)

In beauty
Eating carrots is also good for the skin; its known blood-cleansing properties will help clear up spots and blemishes. For ageing of the skin, wrinkles and a bad colour, mix 10 ml (2 tsp) almond oil and 4 drops essential oil of carrot (see also burns). Use twice a year, for one month only each time, applying twice a day, and your skin will regain elasticity and firmness, and will acquire a good colour. The smell of carrot oil is not to everyone’s liking, so for a face oil you could also add a drop of rose oil.

Carrots are very useful in preparing the skin for the sun, particularly extra sensitive skins. They help prevent dryness, burns, and the very early stages of skin cancer. For two months before going on a sunshine holiday, drink some carrot juice every day. (Use the pulp from the juiced carrots as a mask once a week on any skin that needs moisturizing.) Every night massage in a little of the above carrot oil blend. Hazelnut is a good oil to use instead of almond, as it actively helps a tan.

Another trick is to apply some carrot juice to the face and decolletage: this makes the skin look slightly more tanned, and is particularly effec¬tive if you are going out for the evening, as it covers up any little blemishes (See also ageing skin and dermatitis.)

In cookery
Carrots really need no words to describe their place in cookery. They have become a foundation vegetable rather like onions, forming the basis for stews, casseroles and braises, to which they contribute flavour, colour and texture. Carrots make a delicious soup, and they are also lightly cooked as an accompaniment vegetable – older roots cut into chunks or sticks, and young ones whole – and Carottes Vichy, roots cooked in water from the spa, used to be prescribed to cure eating excesses and digestive problems. The nutritive properties of carrots, though, are best when ingested uncooked, and carrots can be eaten raw as a snack, grated in salads, or in chunks as a crudite with a dip. Carrot juice is now freely available in good supermarkets, and juicers can be bought.

An important point. The flavour and goodness of carrots is in or near the skin, so they should never be peeled or scraped, only scrubbed.


Carrots are rich in vitamin A and they make a delicious quiche which is good for the skin and all respiratory problems. You could decorate it before baking with little circles of raw carrot.

  • 225g (8 oz) shortcrust pastry
  • 1 kg (21/4 lb) carrots, scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 15 g (1/2 oz) butter
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) buttermilk
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh parsley
  • salt, freshly ground pepper and freshly grated nutmeg
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) grated Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese
  • Roll the pastry and use to line an 18 – 20cm (7 – 8 inch) flan tin. Chill.

Boil the carrots until soft, then mash. Meanwhile sweat the onion in the butter until soft. Mix the onion and carrot together, then mix in the thyme, buttermilk, egg and parsley. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour into the prepared pastry case and place in an oven preheated to 180°C (350 OF) Gas 4. Bake for 40 minutes, sprinkling with the cheese after 10 minutes.

Other uses
The reddish juice of wild carrots was once used as a food colouring; a tincture of carrot seed oil was sometimes used in French liqueurs, and roasted carrot roots were used in times of hardship as a substitute for coffee. Carrots are also used in France to colour natural cosmetics.

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