The carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) is a root vegetable, usually orange in colour, though purple, red, white, and yellow varieties exist. It has a crisp texture when fresh. The most commonly eaten part of a carrot is a taproot, although the greens are sometimes eaten as well. It is a domesticated form of the wild carrot Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia. The domestic carrot has been selectively bred for its greatly enlarged and more palatable, less woody-textured edible taproot. The Food and AgricultureOrganization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that world production of carrots and turnips (these plants are combined by the FAO for reporting purposes) for calendar year 2011 was almost 35.658 million tonnes. Almost half were grown in China. Carrots are widely used in many cuisines, especially in the preparation of salads, and carrot saladsare a tradition in many regional cuisines.
The carrot gets its characteristic, bright orange colour from β-carotene, and lesser amounts of α-carotene, γ-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. α and β-carotenes are partly metabolized into vitamin A, providing more than 100% of the Daily Value per 100 g serving of carrots (right table). Carrots are also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin K and vitamin B6 but otherwise have modest content of other essential nutrients (right table).
Carrots are 88% water, 4.7% sugar, 2.6% protein, 1% ash, and 0.2% fat. Carrot dietary fiber comprises mostly cellulose, with smaller proportions of hemicellulose, lignin and starch. Free sugars in carrot include sucrose, glucose and fructose.
The lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids characteristic of carrots are under study for their potential roles in vision and eye health.