Daucus (Sturtevant, 1919)

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Sturtevant, Notes on edible plants, 1919
Daucus (Sturtevant, 1919)

Daucus carota Linn.

Umbelliferae. CARROT.

Europe and the adjoining portions of Asia and introduced in North and South America, China and Cochin China. The root, says Don, is slender, aromatic and sweetish. The roots are employed in the Hebrides as an article of food, being eaten raw, and are collected by the young women for distribution as dainties among their acquaintances on Sundays and at their dances. This wild plant is the original of the cultivated carrot, for, by cultivation and selection, Vilmorin-Andrieux obtained in the space of three years roots as fleshy and as large as those of the garden carrot from the thin, wiry roots of the wild species. Carrots are now cultivated throughout Europe and in Paris are a most popular vegetable. In some regions, sugar has been made from them but its manufacture was not found profitable. In Germany, a substitute for coffee has been made of carrots chopped up into small pieces and browned. In Sweden, carrots grow as high as latitude 66° to 67° north. In Asia, the carrots of the Mahratta and Mysore countries are considered to be of especially fine quality.

The carrot and the parsnip, if known to them, seem to have been confounded in the description by the ancients, and we find little evidence that the cultivated carrot was known to the Greek writers, to whom the wild carrot was certainly known. The ancient writers usually gave prominence to the medical efficacy of herbs; and if our supposition is correct that their carrots were of the wild form, we have evidence of the existence of the yellow and red roots in nature, the prototypes of these colors now found in our cultivated varieties. Pliny says: "They cultivate a plant in Syria like staphylinos, the wild carrot, which some call gingidium, yet more slender and more bitter, and of the same properties, which is eaten cooked or raw, and is of great service as a stomachic; also a fourth kind, resembling a pastinaca somewhat, called by us Gallicam, but by the Greeks daucon." This comparison with a parsnip and also the name is suggestive of the cultivated carrot. Galen, a Greek physician of the second century, implies cultivation of the carrot when he says the root of the wild carrot is less fit to be eaten than that of the domestic. In the thirteenth century, however, Albertus Magnus treats of the plants under field culture, garden culture, orchard culture and vineyard culture, and yet, while naming the parsnip, makes no mention of the carrot — if the word pastinaca really means the parsnip. One may believe, however, that the pastinaca of Albertus Magnus is the carrot for, in the sixteenth century, Ammonius gives the name for the carrot pastenei, as applying to Pastinaca sativa and agrestis. Barbarus, who died in 1493, and Virgil both describe the carrot under the name pastinaca; and Apicius, a writer on cookery in the third century, gives directions for preparing the Carota seu pastinaca, which can apply only to the carrot. Dioscorides uses the word carota as applying to Pastinaca silvestris in the first century. Columella and Palladius both mention the pastinaca as a garden plant but say nothing that cannot better apply to the carrot than to the parsnip. Macer Floridus also treats of what may be the carrot under pastinaca and says no roots afford better food.

Hence, we believe that the carrot was cultivated by the ancients but was not a very general food-plant and did not attain the modern appreciation; that the word pastinaca, or cariotam, or carota, in those times was applied to both the cultivated and the wild form; and we suspect that the word Gallicam, used by Pliny in the first century, indicates that the cultivated root reached Italy from France, where now it is in such exaggerated esteem.

The siasron of Dioscorides and the siser of Columella and Pliny may have been a form of the carrot but we can attain no certainty from the descriptions. The fact that the grouping of the roots which occurs in the skirret, into which authors translate siser, is not mentioned by the ancients — a distinction almost too important to be overlooked — and that the short carrot was called siser by botanists of the sixteenth century, are arguments in favor of siser being a carrot. On the other hand, we should scarcely expect a distinction being made between pastinaca and siser, were both as similar in the plant as are the two forms of carrot at present.

The carrot is now found under cultivation and as an escape throughout a large portion of the world. In China, it is noticed in the Yuan dynasty, as brought from western Asia, 1280-1368, and is classed as a kitchen vegetable in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by various Chinese authors. In India, the carrot is said to have come first from Persia and is now cultivated in abundance in the Mahratta and Mysore countries. The carrot is enumerated among the edible plants of Japan by Thunberg and earlier by Kaempfer. The kind now described by a Japanese authority is an inch and a half in diameter at the crown, nearly two feet and a half long, and of a high color. The carrot is now cultivated in the Mauritius, where also it has become spontaneous. It is recorded in Arabia by Forskal and was seen growing — both the yellow and the red — by Rauwolf at Aleppo in the sixteenth century. In Europe, its culture was mentioned by nearly all of the herbalists and by writers on gardening subjects, the red or purple kind finding mention by Ruellius, 1536. In England, the yellow and dark red, both long forms, are noticed by Gerarde, 1597, and the species is supposed to have been introduced by the Dutch in 1558. In the Surveyors' Dialogue, 1604, it is stated that carrot roots are then grown in England and sometimes by farmers. In the New World, carrots are mentioned at Margarita Island by Hawkins, 1565 (and this implies that they were well known in England at this date); are mentioned in Brazil, 1647; in Virginia, 1609 and 1648; and in Massachusetts, 1629. In 1779, carrots were among the Indian foods destroyed by General Sullivan near Geneva, New York. So fond of carrots are the Flathead Indians, of Oregon, that the children cannot forbear stealing them from the fields, although honest as regards other articles.


The types of modem carrot are the tap-rooted and the premorse-rooted with a number of subtypes, which are very distinct in appearance. The synonymy, in part, is as below:

  • Pastinaca saliva prima. Fuch. 682. 1542.
  • Moren. Roeszl. 106. 1550.
  • Staphylinus. Trag. 442. 1552.
  • Carota. Cam. Epit. 509. 1586 (very highly improved); Matth. 549. 1598.
  • Pastinaca sativa Diosc. Daucus Theophrasti. Lob. Icon. 1:720. 1591.
  • Pastinaca sativa tenuifolia. Ger. 872. 1597.
  • Pastinaca sativa rubens. Dod. 678. 1616.
  • Long yellows, red, and whites of modern culture.

  • Pastinaca sativa altera. Fuch. 683. 1542.
  • Siser. Matth. Comment. 242. 1558; Pin. 147. 1561.
  • Siser alterum. Cam. Epit. 227. 1586.
  • Carota. Dur. C. 95. 1617.
  • Blanche des Vosges. Vilm. 70. 1883.
  • Danvers Half-long of American gardens.


The premorse forms offer a number of subtypes which are very distinct, some being nearly spherical, others cylindrical, and yet others tapering, but all ending abruptly at the base, the tap-root starting from a flat, or nearly flat, surface. This appearance seems to be modem.

The spherical.—The earliest mention of this type is in France in 1824, 1826 and 1829, as the Courte de Pollande. It is figured by Decaisne and Naudin, and, in a more improved form, by Vilmorin in 1883.

The cylindrical.— The carrots of this type are remarkably distinct and have for types the Carentan and the Coreless of Vilmorin. The first was in American seed-catalogs in 1878.

The tapering.—A number of varieties belong to this class, of which the Early Horn is the type. This was mentioned for American gardens by McMahon, 1806, and by succeeding authors.

In view of the confusion in early times in the naming of the carrot, it is desirable to offer a list of the names used by various authors, with the dates. The first, or long carrot, was called in England, carot, Lyte, 1586: In France, carota, Ruel, 1536; carottes; pastenades, Pin., 1561; pastenade jaune, pastenade rouge, Lyte, 1586; carotte, racine jaune, Ger., 1597: In Germany, Pastenei, Ammon., 1539; Pastiney Pastinachen, Fuch., 1542; geel Ruben, rohte Ruben, weissen Ruben, Trag., 1552; Mohren, Rosz., 1550; Moren, Pin., 1561; gelbe Ruben, weissen Ruben, Rauwolf, 1582; rot Mohren, weisse Mohren, Cam., 1586: In Dutch, geel peen, pooten, geel mostilen, caroten, Lyte, 1586: In Italy, carota, Pin., 1561; carota and carotola, Cam., 1586; pastinaca, Ger., 1597; Dod., 1616: In Spain, canahoria, Ger., 1597; and pastenagues, cenoura, Dod., 1616.

The half-long, taper-pointed carrot was called siser by Matthiolus in 1558: In France, carottes blanche, Pin. 1561; but his other names applicable to the skirret are the chervy, giroles or carottes blanches, Cam. Epit. 1586: In Germany, Gierlin or Girgellin, Cam. 1586: In Italy, carota bianca, Cam. 1586; carotta, carocola, Dur. C. 1617: In Spain, chirivias. Camerarius, 1586, says they were planted in gardens and even in fields throughout Germany and Bohemia.

The various forms of the carrot have probably their prototypes in nature but as yet the evidence is a little deficient. We may suspect the general resemblance of the Altringham to the Japanese variety, already mentioned, to be somewhat more than accidental and to signify the original introduction of this variety from Japan. We have, in the attempts at amelioration, noted the appearance of forms of types similar to those under cultivation. The presumptive evidence is in favor of the view that all cultivated types are removes from nature, not new originations by man; yet the proof is not as decisive as could be wished.

Daucus gingidium Linn.

Europe and north Africa. This is the gingidium of the ancients, according to Sprengel. "There is, saith Galen, great increase of gingidium in Syria, and it is eaten. Diascorides doth also write the same: this pole herbe, (saith he) is eaten raw, sodden, and preserved with great good to the stomacke."