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What is Next Nature?

With our attempts to cultivate nature, humankind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us.

Why are Carrots Orange? It is Political

Why are Carrots Orange? It is Political

No, the image above does not some show some collection of freshly genetically designed hypercarrots in various colors of the rainbow. This is the spectrum of colors carrots used to have – and in some regions of the world you can still find white, yellow, red and purple carrots. In most countries however, carrots tend to be orange nowadays. Why is that?

Allegedly they are orange for entirely political reasons: in the 17th century, Dutch growers are thought to have cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – who led the the struggle for Dutch independence – and the color stuck. A thousand years of yellow, white and purple carrot history, was wiped out in a generation.

Although some scholars doubt if orange carrots even existed prior to the 16th century, they now form the basis of most commercial cultivators around the world. Presumably crosses between Eastern (purple), Western (white, red) and perhaps wild carrots led to the formation of the orange rooted carrot sub species. Turkey is often cited as the original birthplace of the hybrids (or mutations) of the two groups.

Whatever the origins, the Long Orange Dutch carrot, first described in writing in 1721, is the forebear of the orange Horn carrot varieties so abundant nowadays. The Horn Carrot derives from the Netherlands town of Hoorn in the neighborhood of which it was presumably bred. All our modern, western carrots ultimately descend from these varieties. Hypernature avant la lettre.

Source: Carrot Museum. See also: Hyper fruits, Comeback of the ‘ugly’ fruits, Better than the real thing.


  1. Does color say anything about how the different carrots taste? Perhaps the orange ones are the sweetest. Or is that just a big lobby by a rabbit called Bugs?

  2. Philomena

    A similar thing has also happened with apples and pears.
    Isabella Dalla Ragione is trying to recover these “lost varieties” and cultivate them in her garden in the North of Italy. She scans remote areas to find varieties and uses Renaissance paintings to identify them.

  3. Dhara

    As an Indian In the Netherlands, I have seen both red and orange carrots. In India, the red variety is predominant, specially in the North. The red carrots are larger, much sweeter, and have more juice, so are primarily used in salads and juices. The orange variety is blander and used for cooking, because its less mushy when cooked. The Dutch version is closer to the second category.

    Oh and the purple ones taste different, and supposedly are good for stomach problems. No idea about white ones.

    Just my 2 cents :)

  4. Jimmy Aitken

    The purple ones are regularly available at my local Sainsbury’s when in season. Nice taste, but make the water turn purple while cooking

  5. Chuck

    What a wonderful photo, yall should make high resolution version available.

  6. Ivar Snaaijer

    The article you link to (the carrot museum) is actually claiming that this tale is apocryphal… As a Dutch guy I would like it to be true though…

  7. Good one – I love quirky articles like this that provide good insight on foods! :)

  8. Wow…. great historical information. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Cool wallpaper/background!!!

  10. Luna

    @Arnound – Actually I currently live in Asia. I can get Yellow and Purple carrots here, just as easily as orange ones. I generally find the yellow ones are smaller and thinner then the orange but they have a milder somewhat sweeter flavor and a softer texture. The purple ones have a more robust flavor and are very dense, so i generally need to steam them before eating.
    Others may have had different experiences.

  11. Right

    That’s bullshit. They’re orange now due to domestication not as a tribute to William of Orange.

  12. For those who have a garden: you can still purchase carrot seeds that produce a mix of orange, purple, white and yellow carrots. ‘De nieuwe tuin’ (The new garden) in Belgium sells them. My last year’s harvest was rather poor though, but that might be due to weather conditions….

  13. Marck

    Nice story. Too bad it’s just nonsense. Just read your source once again…

  14. In response to the last comment, I believe that many fruits and vegetables serve the parts of the body they re-present. Check out some info I wrote about it and then feel free to find out more … http://www.sensationalebooks.com/blog/?p=9

  15. i love carrots!

  16. Editor

    William of Orange “led” the struggle for Dutch independence, not “lead.”

  17. Mike

    Here in california we get all color varieties from the local/organic farms/markets. It was shocking to walk into the store and see purple, red, and white carrots bunched together for the first time. Now they’re all we buy.

  18. Mattie F.

    “A tale, probably apocryphal, has it that the orange carrot was bred in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century to honour William of Orange.”

  19. Beth

    Um…don’t your writers read their own sources properly? How do you take a source that says this story is likely a myth, and then repost it as being a truth, here?


    Yeah, people have done a lot to mess up the natural order of things, including carrots, but you don’t need to take a cutesy myth to make some kind of point. Just say, “humankind is screwing up the carrots.” ‘Nuf said, without the lies.

    More dangerous than irresponsible carrot breeding is irresponsible story-telling and reporting.

  20. I wonder if the different colours have different levels of carotene?

  21. snagli

    Ha. And then people say genetically engineered food is evil.

  22. pililip

    carrot is my fav food for ever

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  25. Leandro

    It is true there is a whole variety of colors. Now it doesn’t mean that orange is bad. Actually the orange comes from a pigment called Beta-carotens what is the precursor of many importante molecules for human health such as Vit A.
    Having said that, it is also very important to protect the biodiversity and try to protect, in this case, the carrots that have a different coloration.