Even carrots can be politicised? You learn something new every day!

orange and purple carrots - from http://www.flickr.com/photos/satrina0/From the farming report at the end of tonight’s Evening Extra.

[Richard Wright] … the vegetables that are grown and sold have always reflected changes in society. But the oddest claim is that carrots which are naturally a purple colour were bred as we know them today as part of an underground political strategy.

[Christopher Stocks] We think carrots probably came to Britain with Protestant Dutch people fleeing from Holland at the time of the Inquisition. Bizarrely, Holland in the fifteen hundreds was part of the Spanish Habsburg empire who were Catholic and rather disapproved of the Calvinists popping up all over the place. A lot of them fled and they took their carrots with them. We think it’s possible they bred the orange carrots as an underground resistance symbol in honour of William of Orange who was the local resistance fighter at the time.

I fully expect Orange Men to be throwing carrots to crowds lining pavements on the Twelfth next summer, and for calls to be made in the Assembly for local supermarkets to stock purple carrots alongside their orange counterparts …

Photo from Satrina0 via Flickr

  • Cynic2

    I assume that the Andersonstown News will now run a campaign against orange carrots as a symbol of Unionist oppression

    I cant wait for Chris Donnelly’s posts on this one

  • cynic2

    I see I have got a yellow card tonight. Gawd knows what for but I assume that I have annoyed the Card Dragon again.

    And all the Black Spots have disappeared – they were much more classy

    Do we have orange cards and green cards as well – or is that only at work and when applying to the Housing Executive – only joking!

  • Pete Baker

    “You learn something new every day!”

    Well, Alan, I wouldn’t consider “we think it’s possible” as sufficient evidence on which to base learning something new.

    But Christopher Stocks does have a book to sell.

    And his particularly hypothesis on the colour of the carrot seems to be little more than a variation on one previously discounted.

    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! Some astute historian managed to install the myth that the work [of] an unexpected mutation was developed especially to thank King William I as a tribute to independence from Spain.

    The Carrot Museum has much more detail.

    It is commonly held that the Dutch “invented” Orange carrots – However! – There are compelling arguments for a much earlier, near eastern origin – the Byzantine illustration in the Dioscorides codex, drawn in 512 ad shows quite clearly carrot plants with a thick, orange coloured root, indicating that carotene cultivars already existed at that time.

    Here’s a much more obvious reason for the rise of the orange [carrot] – from the same source.

    In around 950, Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq’s produced a cookbook, the most comprehensive work of its kind. This traditional cookbook with more than 600 recipes using medieval ingredients and dishes from the luxurious cuisine of medieval Islam is also a rare guide to the contemporary culinary culture. He described the carrots used in his recipes thus:

    Jazar – carrots. Of the cultivated varieties

    1. Red-orange (jazar ahmar) carrot literally ‘red’, described as juicy, tender, and delicious. Poets compare it to carnelian, rubies, flames of fire, and coral reeds. [added emphasis]

    2. Yellow Carrot (jazar asfar), thicker and denser in texture than the red.

    3. White Carrot (jazar abyad) similar to parsnips, aromatic, and deliciously sharp in taste. It is also described as having a pleasant crunch.

  • Pete – you see I learned two things tonight … or did one cancel the other out, and that means I learned nothing? No doubt, Evening Extra will have to publish a note on their corrections page – oh, no, radio doesn’t have one of those!

  • Pete Baker

    Hopefully, Alan, you learned not to take on face value the BBC presenting an author speaking about his own book without looking behind the scenes. 😉

  • Pete – I’ll get you to sub my posts from now on :-b

  • Rory Carr

    I learned of the carrot’s induction into the Orange some time ago and since that moment not a scrap of the offending legume has knowingly passed between my ruby lips.

    I appreciate that staff and customers eating Monday’s Irish Stew luncheon at La Gavroche are sometimes taken aback at my pernickety fishing for scraps of the Orange terror in the day’s plat du jour but, damn it, principles come first !

  • Pete Baker

    Erm, Rory.

    Look again.

  • babyface finlayson

    I know you are a Python fan, so you probably remember Graham Chapman’s interventions in sketches he thought were getting silly.
    For some reason your contribution here reminded me of him.

  • Rory Carr

    Never mind the actualité, Pete. Image is all and as rumor and anecdote feed image so neither shall Orange carrot be seen to feed me (in public anyway).

  • carnmoney.guy

    that jasper carrot is now a media mogul

  • carnmoney.guy

    that 24 should not have married a Gold, now he has to go around with a double barrled name

  • carnmoney.guy

    24 has been disowned by his brothers Diced, Mashed and Rotten

  • Munsterview

    Non runner……… ‘carrot bastard’ will never catch on !

  • It doesn’t matter what colour they are as long as they help you to see better in the dark.


  • “But Christopher Stocks does have a book to sell.”

    and he’s sometimes strapped for cash:

    October 21st, 2009

    I’ve been feeling down about my ever-declining income for ages now …

    But that was two years ago around the time his book had gone into paperback edition. Perhaps we can expect some new ‘tree-hugging’ revelations about Gerry Adams in his forthcoming tome on ‘a social history of British forests’

    The funniest political yarn I’ve come across about matters gardening was the one about a nationalist council’s contribution to prettifying the environment: the bulbs it planted turned out to be orange lillies!

  • Pigeon Toes

    “offending legume ”
    Carrots are not legumes, but the dear old green pea is and therefore good for the soil!

    “All we are singing is give Peas a chance”

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Even carrots can be politicised? ”

    Learned this on St. Patrick’s Day 1998, when my Mother-in-law
    served me carrot soup 😀

  • sherdy

    Pity they couldn’t have altered the stalks and leaves to a true blue.
    But what was wrong with the original Royal Purple Arch Chapter carrot anyway – not royal/loyal enough?

  • babyface finlayson

    Clearly it is a traditional route vegetable.

  • Abu Mikhail74

    Nice one babyface. I wish I were that quick.

    Happy New Year everyone.

    Is there a Sluggerite that can confirm a story I remember hearing: a unionist politician who was insulted to be served peas, mashed potatoes and carrots, because they replicated Satan’s Tricolour?

    This might be an urban legend, but I’m sure I first heard it from a fairly reputable source, one of the Independent journalists, maybe?

  • cynic2

    Keep your republican peas. We have good honest Ulster Protestant Carrots

  • tuatha

    Is the time to point out that an orange, when going off, shows the perfect tricolour?

  • Tuatha,

    Thanks for putting me off my supper 🙂

  • tuatha

    JoeC – watch away that tasteless thought with a couple of dram – I think that you’ve still your Midnight to arrive, correct?

  • Good suggestion, tuatha. 5 hours, 10 minutes.

  • lover not a fighter

    They could get them into rows and lines

    They could make them orange with a green top

    But the could’nt make them march or even hop !

  • We think carrots probably came to Britain with Protestant Dutch people fleeing from Holland at the time of the Inquisition.

    Now you’ve all had your fun, let me rain on the parade of witticisms.

    I think you’ll find carrots several times in John R Clark Hall’s Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. By the look of it, Anglo-Saxon carrots had a gender issue: moru (f) and more (m). Check out also naester. There’s also a problem discerning carrots from parsnips, which was only sorted in the 18th century by Linnaeus giving them separate scientific names.

    Those Dutch refugees turned up in London in the mid-1500s, especially after the Duke of Alba’s appointment as Captain-General. The main influx (of some 18,000) is usually dated 1567-1571. By then the carrot was well-established in England and in early-modern English:

    — William Turner (not that one!) in his Libellus de re Herbaria (1538) tells us that Davcvs creticvs, Mihi uidetur, anglis esse, wylde carrot.

    — A decade later (1548), in a specialised lexicon of plant names, he has it that Carettes growe in al countreis in plenty.

    — In between time, Thomas Elyot puts out a self-improvement tome, The castel of helthe, extolling the virtues of Parsnepes and carets which do nourishe with better iuyce than the other rootes.

    — Kew Gardens has a reproduction of a Byzantine herbal (the Juliana Anicia Codex of AD512) which clearly shows a red carrot — so much for politically-motivated genetic manipulation.

  • Yeah, I know Pete Baker on 30 December 2011 @ 11:44 pm got in with the Juliana Anicia Codex, and I should have acknowledged his input.

    However, it’s Tuesday. Many of the kids are still off school. I’m having serious bandwidth problems here (thank you, VirginMedia, thank you soooo much for charging me for a 30Mb “unlimited” broadband).

    Result was an earlier edit got posted above. Apologies.

  • There’s rarely a blog post thread that can’t be redeemed! Never a bad topic …