Evolution and Improvement of Carrots from 1500 to 1700

Carrots in the Renaissance


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History of the Carrot

Evolution and Improvement in the Renaissance -  AD 1500 to 1700

Chapters in the history rooms:
 
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 History Part 1 - A Brief Timeline

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 History Part 2 - Neolithic to AD 200 - Origins and development

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 History Part 3 - AD 200 to 1500 - From Medicine to Food

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 History Part 4 - 1500 to 1700 - Evolution and Improvement in the Renaissance

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 History Part 5 - 1700 to 1900 - Science & Enlightenment - the modern carrot evolves

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 History Part 6 - 1900 to date - The Modern Carrot and Genetic Discovery

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 History of Carrot Colour - The road to domestication and the origin of Orange Carrots

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 History in WW2 - Takes an in depth look of the role of carrots in World War Two, reviving its popularity

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 Illustrations of Carrot in Ancient Manuscripts and Early Printed Books


more healthy carrotsBy the 16th century  the carrot, both in its Wild and Domesticated forms is referenced extensively in ancient Herbals and a selection of these is shown in detail on a separate page here.  The carrot in various colours also starts to appear in art works at this time. Art works alone are not considered to be good enough evidence of true colours as the paint colours used are not always true to type, and artists use colour effects in arranging their subjects. So in paintings, the differences between yellow and orange roots could be due to artistic features rather than to differences between cultivars. One can probably say with certainty that orange varieties were grown in the Netherlands at this time but this does not prove their origin in that locality. (Brandenberg) (examples of art works here)

In the late 1500s, agricultural scientists in the Netherlands bred selected deep yellow carrots together to make stable, large, straight, sweet, orange carrots like the ones we eat today, possibly because they thought the fad for sweet oranges would make people like other orange foods. But people still mostly fed carrots to horses and donkeys and pigs, and didn’t eat them themselves.

Dutch immigrants arriving in England from the middle of the sixteenth established communities, mostly in towns in southern and eastern England. Many were textile workers but vegetable gardeners and farmers also came, introducing the crops and intensive techniques of their native lands.

Immigrant gardeners made a significant contribution to food production at Norwich, Sandwich, and Colchester before the end of the sixteenth century. At Norwich in 1575 the Strangers' production of vegetables was 'grete succor and sustenaunce for the pore'. The vicar of St Clements, Sandwich, took tithe of Dutchmen's gardens from 1570. Some Strangers moved from Sandwich to Colchester; by I584 over 1000 Dutch people lived there and gardeners amongst them produced root vegetables for sale. (source - L F Roker, 'The Flemish and Dutch Community in Colchester in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries', M A London Univ, 1963. p 84, State Papers Domestic, Elizabeth, vol 2o, no 49; William Boys, Collections for an History of Sandwich, Canterbury, ~792, p 340)

There is quite a lot more information about the influence of Dutch agriculturists and their role in Sandwich in Garden seeds in England before the late eighteenth century: I. Seed growing By Malcolm Thick, Agricultural History Review, 1989) - full copy here - pdf)


It is important to note that the first documentary record of the use of "orange" as a colour name in English was in 1512, in a will now filed with the Public Record Office. Before this word was introduced to the English-speaking world, the colour was referred to as ġeolurēad (yellow-red). (Source: Oxford English Dictionary,2011.) Therefore documentary references to orange carrot are virtually non-existent around this time. One could argue that when writers were referring to light red or deep yellow they could easily have meant orange, as there was no word for it!

The 16th Century witnessed the use of carrots as flavourings for meat dishes, rather than a main vegetable. The herbalist Gerard noted that the yellow carrot has a mild flavour. (see more about the references to carrots - (Carrots in Herbals/Herbalists here  - Ancient Manuscripts page here) .  Root crops were not really grown in open fields until after the end of the 16th C although carrot, parsnip and skirrets had been familiar long before, evidence by several mentions in gardening and recipe cook books to “herbes for potage” and “herbes for salad”. Growing on any sort of scale was limited to the gardens of castles and monasteries. Much of the time they were mainly grown for the animals they kept rather than feed the people.

Gentlemen in their country house cajoled or bullied their tenants to supply them with novel luxuries such as they had enjoyed on their visits to London, with the result that many peasants grew carrots for sale at a very early date. It is recorded that many new vegetables were tithed – a sure sign that they were for sale and not just for household use. The date of 1614 is recorded as the time in Kirkby Malzeard, Yorkshire when artichokes, parsnips carrots and turnips were tithed.

Nearly all the botanists and writers on gardening, all over Europe, were familiar with the carrot and were describing many kinds, including red and purple kinds in France and yellow and red kinds in England. Daucus came to be the official name in the sixteenth century, and was adopted by Linnaeus in the eighteenth century. It is thought that for the first few hundred years of its managed cultivation, carrot roots were predominantly purple.

So little were vegetables cultivated, or gardening understood as yet, that in the year 1509, Henry the 8th's Queen Catharine could not procure a "sallad", till Henry sent to the Netherlands (Holland/Flanders), and engaged a gardener to come over to raise the proper articles here. There is noted an entry in the household book of Cliffords, originally kept in Skipton Castle, a sum of eleven shillings “for six cabbages and some caret roots bought at Hull”. These were then imported from Flanders, whence Queen Catherine had her salads. It was not until the end of Henry's reign that vegetables such as carrots and turnips were available and used by the masses. (Reference - History of Great Britain, D Hume, 1832)

At a date probably soon after 1525 an alphabetical list of herbs 'necessary for a garden' was compiled for Thomas Fromond, a Surrey landowner who died in 1543. The list is followed by groups of plants classified for specific purposes and by further collections of species destined for a sophisticated pleasure garden. The form of the list follows a new fashion, and the choice of plants indicates fresh developments in gardening, in line with the changed outlook of the Renaissance.

"Also Rotys For A Gardyn  - Persenepez, Turnepez, Radyche, Karettes, Galyngale, Tryngez, Saffron."

In an agricultural treatise printed in 1569 Agostino Gallo listed what were the then common garden vegetables. These were grown for their usefulness and health-giving properties, which Gallo also details. They were cabbages, leeks, garlic, onions, fennel, carrots, squashes, turnips, radishes, peas, shallots, erba sana (all-good, a kind of wild spinach), artichokes and asparagus.

The Middle Ages was dominated by Galenism.

A good example was the Galenic handbook “The Castel of Helthe” (1541) by Sir Thomas Elyot (1490-1546) who praised “moderate lyvinge” and warns readers to avoid extremes in eating, drinking and sleeping as well as “immoderate” “affectes and passions” harmful to both physical and spiritual well being.

This extract (right) gives his reference to carrots, recommending them to expel wind and urine.


 Ludvig V ‘Book of Medicine’ , around 1530 - magic use of carrots

One of the 13 volumes of Louis V, Count Palatine of the Rhine reigned: 1508-1544 (German: Ludwig V. von der Pfalz)  ‘Book of Medicine’, around 1530 and compiled and wrote in his own hand, explained the medicinal and magical use of "mohren" - carrots, including recipes. (c. 3200 leaves of parchment) (Cod. Pal. germ. 244, 261-272 - Heidelberg Library) (image right yet to be translated; click image for larger version)

"Rezepte gegen Krankheiten der Augen = Recipes for the diseases of the eyes"

Dr Andrew Boorde, ”physycke doctor” was an English traveller, physician and writer. He started his career as an under age Carthusian monk who was subsequently “accused of being conversant with women” and dispensed from religion by the Pope’s Bull. He travelled the world in the early 1500’s to study medicine, going on to write his: A compendyous regyment; or, A dyetary of helth made in Mountpyllier Dyetary in around1542.  He refers to carrots thus: "Carets soden and eaten doth auge and increase nature and doth cause a man to make water" - extract below.

 

Andrew Boord 1542 - carrots cause a man to make water

Leonhart Fuchs, 1542 (below) - marked "Pastinaca Sativus Prima", but clearly has the attributes of the carrot plant. De historia stirpium commentarii insignes (Image courtesy of Smithsonian Institute)

The image (below left) shows an early German drawing taken from “Herbarum Imagines Vivae”  printed from a copy of the original 1535 Frankfurt Edition belonging to the Leopold Sophien Bibliothek Uberlingen.  Right is taken from "Botanicon: continens herbarum aliorumque simplicium" By Theodor Dorsten 1540. As you can see the same woodcut image is used in both publications. Centre is from Pedacio Dioscorides Anazarbeo, Acerca de la materia medicinal, Andrés de Laguna - 1555.

Taken from “Herbarum Imagines Vivae”  printed from a copy of the original 1535 Frankfurt Edition belonging to the Leopold Sophien Bibliothek Uberlingen.

Pedacio Dioscorides Anazarbeo, Acerca de la materia medicinal  Andrés de Laguna - 1555

Botanicon: continens herbarum aliorumque simplicium" By Theodor Dorsten 1540

 

Walther Hermann Ryff - Lustgarten der Gesundtheit. (Garden of Health) - Frankfurt, 1546 (Note that the woodcut image is exactly the same as the 1535 manuscript above)

Gelb means yellow" and "Rublinl" translates as "carrot"

This document has a notation that acreage is grown of the 'gelb' carrot near Cologne, but a 'roter' (red) is grown near Strassburg. Since the descriptions both use the word robe, which can be translated as beet, I don't know if the discussion about the two types means a yellow and a more reddish carrot or a yellow carrot and a red beet or not.

It does seem that the illustration and attribution as daucia signifies a carrot, and there is the notation that the gelb (yellow) one is found in the wild.

Click on picture for full extract (pdf).

Cogan, Thomas. 1584. The Haven of Health. London: Thomas Orwin. Thomas Cogan observes that “al herbs and fruits generally are noyfull to man and doe engender ill humors, and be oft-times the cause of putrified Fevers, if they be much and continually eaten.” He notes that apples, the fruit “most used amongst us in England,” should not be consumed raw; and yet “unruly people through wanton appetite will not refrain [from] them, and chiefly in youth when (as it were) by a naturall affection they greedily covet them.” Cogan also warns against the consumption of parsnips and carrots, which “provoke Carnall lust.” One furhter reference in this work - " root vegetables also kept the belly feeling full; carrots and parsnips were “common meate amongst the common people, all time of autumne, and chiefly upon fish daies.”

This illustration from an Italian Herbal in 1500 shows one plant, top, "Pastinacha," probably (family Umbelliferae) (usually but not always! Parsnip) but perhaps Athamanta cretensis three compound branchings from a vertical stem, green with white roots and white berries. Figures associated with plant, "Pastinacha," apparently in reference to its use to promote lactation, evidenced by a nude woman facing holding a baby (also nude), which presses its face against her breast and touches it with its hand. .

Source : University of Vermont. Library. MS 2. [Italian herbal]. [ca. 1500] MS 2 fol. 24

pastinaca or carrot italian herbal 1500

Did the Dutch "Invent" Orange Carrots to honour the House of Orange?

Red and yellow carrots started to appear in Europe in the 13th century and it is now known, from modern genetic research, that orange carrots were developed from those yellow varieties. In the late 1500s, agricultural scientists in the Netherlands bred selected deep yellow carrots together to make stable, large, straight, sweet, orange carrots like the ones we eat today, possibly because they thought the fad for sweet oranges would make people like other orange foods. But people still mostly fed carrots to horses and donkeys and pigs, and didn’t eat them themselves.

From the middle of the 16th century various carrot colours started to appear in art works, principally from the Dutch and Flemish regions, with paintings depicting market and kitchen scenes and including orange and other carrot colours.

So it is regularly assumed by scholars that it was the Dutch who developed the orange carrot, as we now know from yellow varieties. As we now know from modern genetics it would take several decades to stabilise a new plant variety.

There is no documentary evidence that the Dutch "invented" orange carrots to honour the Royal Family, the House of orange. A tale, probably apocryphal, has it that the orange carrot was bred in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century to honour William of Orange. Though the development and stabilisation of the orange carrot root does appear to date from around that period in the Netherlands, it is unlikely that honouring William of Orange had anything to do with it!

As far as The Carrot Museum is concerned the Dutch developed and stabilised the orange carrot, in the 16th century. Subsequently the Dutch people adopted the colour orange and adopted orange carrots as their national vegetable. There is no written evidence that this was also to honour their Royal Family .The point is that the orange carrot came first, Dutch Nationalism second.

To this day, many in the Netherlands genuinely like to believe that orange carrots were originally grown specifically as a tribute to the House of Orange. No matter how many times it is repeated and passed on through the generations it still remains pure folklore!!

There is still some evidence that orange rooted carrots were around long before. For instance a depiction in an ad 512 manuscript. - see here


From the middle of the 16th century carrots started to appear in art works, principally from the Dutch and Flemish regions, with paintings depicting market and kitchen scenes and including various carrots colours.  Many examples appear on the art pages in the World Carrot Museum, starting here. Two examples below from the mid 1500's.
 

An Allegory of Summer (Lucas Van Valckenborch). 1535-97. Private collection Vegetable Market (Lucas Van Valckenborch). 1535-97.  Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

One of the earliest images from this period appears in the Last Supper, Stavronikita Monastery, Refectory, Fresco by Theophanes the Cretan, Cretan School, 1546.The Monastery is an Eastern Orthodox monastery at the monastic state of Mount Athos in Greece, dedicated to Saint Nicholas. It is built on top of a rock near the sea near the middle of the eastern shore of the Athonite peninsula, located between the monasteries of Iviron and Pantokratoros. The site where the monastery is built was first used by Athonite monks as early as the 10th century. Stavronikita was the last to be officially consecrated as an Athonite monastery in 1536 and ranks fifteenth in the hierarchy of the Athonite monasteries and currently has 30 to 40 monks.  Click on the main picture to see a larger version.

 

 Last Supper, Stavronikita Monastery, Refectory 1546

Left - Last Supper, Stavronikita Monastery, Refectory, Fresco by Theophanes the Cretan, Cretan School, 1546.  Below close up detail.

Source.


By the Elizabethan period large quantities of vegetables were raised in the increasing numbers of market gardens especially around large towns such as London, Norwich and Worcester. Some concentrated on cheap, high-yielding crops for the poor: parsnips, carrots, turnips and cabbages, once the fashionable food of the rich now became a mainstream staple.  According to Hales History of Agriculture by dates (1915)  "Salads, carrots and other edible roots were first produced in England in 1530."

However (!) the 1829 book Rural Recollections on the Improvement in Agricultural and Rural Affairs by Geo Robertshaw states (erroneously)

"Carrots were not cultivated in England before the reign of Henry VIII. In the Six Weeks Tour of Arthur Young in1770, he takes notice of carrots in several instances, as being cultivated in the fields."

During this period both carrots and skirrets were eaten as individual vegetables rather than simply mixed into soup. Carrots were ‘roasted in the embers til they be tender’ then pared and eaten with vinegar and oil.

William Rhind wrote in the "History of the Vegetable Kingdom", 1857 - "Carrot was first generally cultivated in England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 (1533-1603), being introduced by the Flemings, who took refuge from the persecutions of Philip II of Spain, and who, finding the soil about Sandwich peculiarly favourable for it, grew it there largely. The English whose agricultural knowledge which was circumscribed, were in this case well pleased to add another edible vegetable to the scanty list which were then under cultivation. The carrot grew quickly into esteem and, being made an object of careful culture, was very shortly naturalised throughout the land. Parkinson, the celebrated botanist to James the First, mentions that in his time the ladies adorned their head dresses with carrot leaves, the light feathery verdure of which caused then to be no contemptible substitute for the plumage f birds. Although the taste of the fair sex in the present day had discarded this simple and perishable ornament, the leaves of the carrot are even now sometimes used as house decorations."

Leonhard Rauwolf (also spelled Leonhart Rauwolff) (21 June 1535 – 15 September 1596) was a German physician, botanist, and traveller. His main notability arises from a trip he made through the Levant and Mesopotamia in 1573-75. The motive of the trip was to search for herbal medicine supplies. Shortly after he returned, he published a set of new botanical descriptions with an herbarium. Later he published a general travel narrative about his visit. Both the yellow and the red carrot was seen by Rauwolf growing in Aleppo, the largest City in Syria and again in Tripoli in Lebanon.


  A few 16th Century references and recipes - (note: As was the common practice at this period, many printed works re-used many previously published books, and called them their own work!)

In an agricultural treatise printed in 1569, just twenty years after Rangoni’s regimen, Agostino Gallo listed what were the then common garden vegetables.[15] These were grown for their usefulness and health-giving properties, which Gallo also details. They were cabbages, leeks, garlic, onions, fennel, carrots, squashes, turnips, radishes, peas, shallots, erba sana (all-good, a kind of wild spinach), artichokes and asparagus. (Gallo, A. (2003 [1569]), Le vinti giornate dell’agricoltura e dei piaceri della villa . L. Crosato (ed). Treviso: Canova, pp. 129–39 )

1548 - William Turner's, The Names of Herbes writes;

"Pastinaca is called…in englishe a Carot…Carettes growe in al countreis in plentie."Daucus.(wild carrots)

There are many kyndes of Daucus after Dioscorides, three at the least, wherof I knowe none suerly but one, whiche is called in latin pastinaca syluestris, in english wild carot in greeke Staphilinos agrios, for the other kindes ye may vse carawey seede, or carot seede. Some learned me not without a cause hold that both the Saxifrages, that is the englishe, and the Italion may be occupied for Dauco. Daucus is sharpe and heateth.

Pastinaca.(domestic carrots)

Pastinaca is called in greeke Staphilinos in englishe a Carot, in duche pasteney, in frenche Cariottes. Carettes growe in al countreis in plentie.

The 1551 edition of the "Libro de Agricultura" by Gabriel Alonso de Herrera has this to say about carrots.

Of carrots and parsnips. Platina puts these two kinds of roots in the same chapter even though they are different in their colours. Parsnips are white like turnips, except that they are thinner and longer. Carrots have the appearance of turnips, neither more nor less, except that some are the colour of oranges; others are so red that they turn dark.

Original  - Delas zanahorias y chirivias. Estas dos maneras de rayzes pone el Platina en un mismo capi. aun que ellas son differentes en sus colores: que las chirivias son blancas como los nabos salvo que son mas delgadas y largas. Las zanahorias son de la hechura