Carrots are delicious, nutritious, and healthy. But is carrot a fruit or vegetable?
Carrots are classified as vegetables, both from a botanical and culinary perspective. They satisfy the vegetables because they’re a root vegetable and because they have a mild and savory taste.
In this article, I’m going to explain why carrots are vegetables, how they grow, and their health benefits.
Is Carrot a Fruit or Vegetable?
Carrots are botanically defined as a vegetable, and specifically as a root vegetable that grows underground. That is the part of the carrot plant that is edible.
Fruits and vegetables are usually broken down into two classifications: botanical and culinary. When it comes to carrots, it satisfies both botanical and culinary classifications as a vegetable.
Cultivated foods will be classified using either their botanical identity or as to how they are defined by their culinary use. Sometimes, the two definitions may conflict about whether it’s a fruit or a vegetable.
Tomatoes are a popular example of these conflicting views. For botanists, they are fruit while for chefs they are vegetables. So, who’s right?
In botany, the tomato is a fruit that develops from the flower and contains the seeds necessary for reproduction. Chefs, on the other hand, will define tomatoes as a vegetable in culinary terms, because of how they are used in a variety of dishes.
Why Are Carrots Vegetables?
Botany defines a vegetable as any edible plant part that does not grow from the flower and contain seeds. Fruit is defined as any type of growth that develops from the fertilized flower ovary containing vital seeds for a plant’s reproduction.
When following the botanical classification, carrots are a vegetable because the carrots we eat are the taproot of the carrot plant that develops underground. They are an edible plant part that does not develop from a flower or contain any seeds, so their botanical definition as a vegetable.
From the culinary definition, carrots are a vegetable because they’re not sweet and often used in side and main dishes. On the other hand, fruits have a sweet flavor and most often used in desserts.
Where Do Carrot Seeds Come From?
Because you will not be able to see carrot seeds on a carrot plant, one may wonder where carrot seeds come from or where they are hidden?
Carrot seeds can be found in the flowers that the carrot plant produces, however, as carrots are biennial plants, they will not produce blooms every year. Carrot plants produce blossoms in their second year of cultivation, so that’s when seeds will be available.
Consider, however, that most farmers and home gardeners will harvest their carrots as an annual in the year that they are planted. As this interrupts the carrot plant’s growth cycle, the plants never arrive at maturity necessary for flowering and producing seeds.
- Related article: Seeded Vegetables List
Growth Cycle of Carrot Plants
The Daucus carota, or the carrot, is a biennial plant that enjoys a two-year growth cycle to reach maturity.
During the first year of the carrot plant’s growth, the carrot seed containing the plant’s genetic material will be sown in the garden. It will then germinate, sending up a stem out of the soil that features a true leaf, and sprout its principal root, known as a radicle, which grows down into the soil bed.
The leaf that develops is crucial to the plant’s survival and development. It is the tool that the plant uses to photosynthesize, guaranteeing nutrition and growth.
After, the carrot plant will develop its central root, known as a taproot. The taproot becomes the colored carrot that we eat. These taproots can be harvested after approximately 75 to 80 days from semination, depending on the variety of carrot cultivated.
The tops of the plant will develop as growth continues and more true leaves will appear. The carrot or tap root will also continue in its expansion and development. If the carrots are harvested for consumption, the plant’s growth cycle ends at this point.
If the carrot plant is allowed to develop and not harvested, as soon as the first frost arrives, carrot tops die back and the plant itself enters a dormancy period.
When the new growing season begins in the spring, its leaves and stems will start to grow once more and will flower, producing white blooms that are delicate and tiny.
As the flower begins to die and dry, any movement of the flower stem will cause the seeds to fall. Individual carrot plants are capable of producing as many as 10,000 seeds.
After flowering, carrots will not be worth harvesting as they will have a woody texture and have lost its flavor. If you are cultivating carrots, it becomes essential that you harvest them at the end of the first year.
Health Benefits of Carrots
Carrots are rich in antioxidants, and as a result, offer multiple health benefits when consumed.
Some of their more well-known benefits include:
1. Helps Protect Bones
Containing both vitamin K and calcium, carrots do their part in keeping your bones healthy.
2. Improves Eye Health
Rich in beta-carotene, they contribute to vision health. This compound is changed into vitamin A which aids in eye health, as well as lowers the risk of cataracts and protects the eyes from sun damage.
Carrots also contain lutein, which is known to prevent or assist in the age-related disease of macular degeneration.
3. Improves Heart Health
Antioxidants are known to be good for heart health. The potassium in carrots can contribute to keeping blood pressure under control, lowering the chances of heart disease.
4. Immune System
Carrots contain vitamin C which assists in creating antibodies to defend the immune system. Vitamin C also helps with the absorption of iron, crucial to preventing infection.
5. Full of Antioxidants
Antioxidants have been shown through research to fight free radicals in the body. Because carrots are packed full of antioxidants, they are believed to contribute to lowering the risk of cancer.
6. Relieve Constipation
Suffering from constipation from too many unhealthy foods? Raw carrots with their high level of fiber may be just what your digestive tract needs to get back on course.
7. Control Blood Sugar Levels
For people suffering from diabetes, eating vegetables that are not starchy is a must. Carrot fiber aids in keeping blood sugar under control, and some evidence indicates that beta-carotene and vitamin A lower risk for diabetes.
How to Use Carrots
Carrots are great vegetables that are used in practically every type of culinary dish. When eaten as a vegetable side dish you will find them:
They’ll often be cooked in butter or perhaps in olive oil depending on preference and cooking method chosen.
Carrots will also be used in:
- Pasta dishes
Raw carrots are found in all kinds of salads, but they are also used as snacks and are particularly great when paired with dips, dressings, or hummus.
Smoothies are also made with carrots, and carrot juice is a great source of vitamins and beta carotene.
But don’t forget carrots if you have a sweet tooth! Carrot cake and carrot muffins are delicious and add a healthy touch to baked goods.
There are also various carrot colors to choose from that can be used for different purposes. It’s not just the orange carrots that we always see, because purple carrots are also common.
Carrots are Vegetables Final Thoughts
From a culinary and botanical definition, carrots are classified as vegetables. Carrots are one of the most versatile vegetables out there and work for a wide variety of cuisines.
They’re easy to grow, store, and prepare. They’re inexpensive, nutritious, and can be enjoyed raw or cooked.
For more articles on other vegetables and fruits, check out these articles: