• Question: Why are carrots orange?

    Asked by Kaley to Avani, Jeff, Kenzi, Lindsay, Zoe on 20 May 2015.
    • Photo: K. Lindsay Hunter

      K. Lindsay Hunter answered on 20 May 2015:

      Before answering your question, I was already aware that the primary compound in carrots that gives them that lovely orange (yellow-red) color is something called beta-carotene. I also knew that if you eat too many carrots yourself, that they’ll actually give YOU a nice, orangey color, too!

      What I HADN’T heard was that the reason that we associate carrots with the color orange today is because 17th century Dutch farmers are believed to have cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange, and orange is their national color (SPOILER ALERT: If you saw “The Fault in Our Stars,” you might remember Augustus Waters’ orange picnic to reveal that they were traveling to the Netherlands). Carrots actually come in lots of different colors, so the Western orange we know today may actually be a fluke of history!

      Brief history of carrots:

      Carotenosis (turning orange from too much carotene):

      Orange carrots and the Dutch:

    • Photo: Zoe GetmanPickering

      Zoe GetmanPickering answered on 20 May 2015:

      They are full of beta carotene. Its an orange pigment. The chemical beta carotene gets split in half in your body to make Vitamine A. If you don’t get enough vitamin A you might go blind. On the other hand, eating a million carrots wont give you hawk vision sadly.

      The oldest carrots that people ate in ancient Egypt and Afghanistan were purple.

    • Photo: Jeff Shi

      Jeff Shi answered on 20 May 2015:

      Wild carrots are actually a lot less orange than the ones you buy at grocery stores. The reason they are so orange is because humans, through farming and thousands of years, have been breeding and selecting for more orange ones, because we’ve long associated that with freshness and good taste. Same thing happens with bananas, corn, and other fruits and vegetables that have bright colors in the grocery!