Find out if a Carrot is technically a fruit or a vegetable, and why, in this simple explanation.
Is a carrot a fruit or a vegetable? Let’s look at the differences to find out.
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It is a question that is debated in many households and classrooms – is a particular food a fruit or a vegetable?
As a former Biology teacher, I love it when curiosity strikes!
Whether you’re making a delicious carrot cake, roasting carrots, adding them to a soup, or eating your carrots raw, this food is quite popular among many families.
So today, let’s take a look at one particular food and answer the question, is a carrot a fruit or vegetable?
Are Carrots Considered Fruits or Vegetables?
Foods are typically classified according to their botanical definition or culinary definitions–and the two don’t always match.
For example, tomatoes are botanically classified as fruits but often called vegetables in culinary terms due to their taste and texture when served raw.
Botanically, carrots are considered to be vegetables. More specifically, they are root vegetables, as they are the edible root of the carrot plant.
What’s the Difference Between a Fruit and a Vegetable
In the culinary sense, we often differentiate foods based on taste. Fruits are usually sweet and colorful, whereas vegetables can be either savory or have a bitter taste to them.
But in the botanical sense, a fruit is defined as “the fleshy or dry ripened ovary of a flowering plant that contains seeds.”
Vegetables are defined as the edible parts of a plant, typically stems, roots and leaves.
Because carrots do not contain seeds and are an edible part of the plant (namely, the roots), they are considered vegetables.
Where Do Carrot Seeds Come From?
Chances are, you’ve never seen carrot seeds on your carrot plants, so it’s natural to wonder where the seeds actually come from?
Carrot seeds come from the carrot plant’s flowers. Because carrots are biennial plants, they will not flower and produce seeds until their second year of growing.
However, most carrots are harvested the same year they are planted, in the middle of their two-year growth cycle, so they never actually get to the point of flowering.
Let’s take a closer look at the growth cycle of carrots.
Two Year Growth Cycle of Carrot Plants
Carrots, known as Daucus carota, have a two-year growth cycle. We’ll break break it down by year.
A carrot seed, which contains its genetic material, sprouts a primary root, or radicle, down into the soil.
A central root forms, which becomes the “taproot,” which will eventually be the carrot itself.
When the seed germinates, it shoots up a stem from the soil, which eventually will sprout a true leaf.
This true leaf allows photosynthesis to begin, which causes growth to happen more quickly. Depending on the variety of carrot planted, the time from planting to harvest averages around 75-80 days.
The carrot tops will fill out as the plant continues to grow and more true leaves form, and the carrot will continue to expand.
In many cases, the growth cycle will end here with a harvest of the whole carrots for consumption.
If carrots are not harvested during the first year of growth, frost will cause the carrot tops to die and the plant will enter dormancy over the winter.
The following spring, the stems and leaves will begin to grow again and the carrots will produce flowers.
These flowers are small white blossoms similar in appearance to Queen Anne’s lace.
Once the flowers begin to dry, shaking the flowers will cause the seeds to fall out. Amazingly, one carrot plant can produce as many as 10,000 seeds!
Can You Harvest Carrots After Flowering
Second-year carrot roots become woody and lose their flavor, so they aren’t something you’d want to eat.
If you want to be able to eat your carrots, go ahead and harvest them in the first year of their growth cycle.
Uses for Carrots
The carrot is an extraordinarily versatile vegetable with a wide variety of culinary uses.
Carrots are often steamed, sauteed, roasted in olive oil or butter, or made into soup.
However, you can also use carrots in many other dishes such as curries, salads, casseroles–pretty much anything!
Raw carrots make a great snack and are delicious dipped in humus or ranch dressing. Baby carrots are perfect for dipping!
Still others press out the carrot juice for use in drinks or smoothies.
They can add texture and sweet flavor to baked goods, such as a homemade carrot cake.
And although many people discard the carrot tops, they are actually an edible part of the plant. They can be roasted and used to make carrot top pesto!
Orange carrots boast plenty of health benefits, too–they are a great source of Vitamin A (our bodies convert beta carotene into vitamin A), potassium, vitamin C, and fiber!
Red carrots contain lycopene, and purple carrots contain anthocyanin.
How to Choose Good Carrots
You’ll want to choose carrots that will stay fresh longer and have sweeter flavor. Appearance will go a long way in helping you do that.
Carrots in grocery stores will typically have their tops intact or cut off close to the top and they should look crisp, bright orange-colored with moist shoulders.
Avoid cracked or wilted carrots, or those with a more muted color.
Carrots are Considered Vegetables
So there you have it! Now you not only know that carrots are vegetables, but you also know why.
Hopefully you’ve learned something about these plants along the way! For some more food trivia, read about whether a strawberry is a fruit or a vegetable (and why they aren’t actually berries at all!) and whether a lemon is a fruit or a vegetable!