You might be wondering why the heck do we find ourselves entangled in such trivial matters about classification of foods?
Why don’t we just eat and let our stomachs do the classification? Isn’t that what stomachs are meant to do?
Well, I believe every organ in the body works in coordination to compensate for what another organ lacks.
That is why animals were given brains so that they could determine what is best to shove into their stomachs.
Where am I going with this brainy philosophy? Are we still talking about carrots?
Yes, we are.
We need to understand that classification of food is very important, especially in this era where it is necessary to balance our diet.
There are so many other benefits of classifying food that I won’t go into details describing here, lest we lose track of the main topic here.
Generally, carrots are botanically considered root vegetables since they form the edible part of the whole plant but do not contain seeds like normal fruits.
However, this definition doesn’t stop a section of the culinary world from marketing carrots as fruits.
Understandably so, because the food world is all about taste and palatability.
One thing we need to understand about vegetables is that any edible part of a plant can be classified as a vegetable but not every edible part can be a fruit.
Why are Carrots Not Fruits?
Generally, carrots are not fruits because they do not contain seeds in their core and do not originate directly from the ovary of the carrot flower.
Classifying a plant as a fruit should not be done based on its physical shape, color, or taste.
Although most fruits are known to have attractive colors and sweet taste, not everything that falls into that spectrum of sweetness and attractive color should be put in a fruit basket.
Carrots are known to be colorful, sweet, and crunchy.
These characteristics are very similar to most fruits we have.
The only exception is the absence of seeds in the core and the fact that the carrot taproot doesn’t originate directly from a flower.
Let’s see how these factors make a difference in the classification.
1. Carrot Roots do not Contain Seeds
This might never have crossed your mind when eating a carrot.
You may be thinking that the seeds are there – somewhere in the core, like in the cucumbers or zucchinis.
Well, if you haven’t been looking, don’t look, because there is nothing in a carrot’s core. Just strands of cellulose fiber.
Carrot seeds are unusually produced directly on a stem from the plant which grows up to form a flowery cluster that eventually turns into tiny dry carrot seeds.
I should call them dry fruits because they are actually not true seeds.
From this previous article here, we saw that true seeds are usually enclosed in a fleshy endosperm that helps in seed dispersal.
However, carrot seeds just come out dry from their flowers in form of dried fruits called schizocarps that split into single seeds on ripening.
These seeds are called mericarps and can grow into new plants when exposed to favorable germination conditions.
The absence of seeds in the commonly consumed part of the carrot plant disqualifies it from being classified under fruits.
2. The Carrot Root Doesn’t Originate from a Flower
For a plant part to qualify as a fruit, it has to originate from the plant’s flowery parts.
A fruit is basically a flower’s ovary that has matured to offer protection to the plant seeds and attract agents of seed dispersal.
This cannot be said about carrots, since they do not have any reproductive association with the flowers of the plant.
A carrot is a taproot that is basically garnished by the green leaves of the carrot plant through photosynthesis.
This fact also disqualifies the edible carrot root we know as a fruit.
3. It is not Just About the Sweet Taste
Actually, this is where all this controversy about carrots being fruits or vegetables comes from.
Since someone can have a few carrot slices in their fruit salad and feel the same sweetness as the other fruits, they quickly conclude that carrots are also fruits.
Well, fruits are indeed meant to be sweet so that animals can enjoy the sweetness and disperse the seeds in the process.
However, the characteristic sweetness of carrots isn’t meant for any dispersal purposes.
The sugars are stored in the root to provide energy to the plant in its two-year life cycle.
We only disrupt this life cycle since our main food target (the root) matures early to keep feeding the rest of the plant.
In fact, not all varieties of carrots taste sweet. Some have complex sugars that do not have the sweetness.
Also, not all fruits taste sweet.
Some, like avocados and cucumbers have a savory taste which also makes them victims of the same fruit and vegetable confusion.
It is also worth noting that the taste of a raw carrot will be different from the taste of a cooked carrot.
So, you cannot base your classification just on the sweet taste.
Are Carrot Leaves and Stems Edible?
Now, since we have known that the carrot root is a vegetable, you may want to know if its greens can be eaten.
The answer is YES; you can eat carrot leaves and stems both raw and cooked if you fancy the taste.
The carrot leaves are said to be rich in vitamins, minerals, and pigments such as chlorophyll that may nutritionally benefit the body.
I have seen some very elaborate recipes on the same and as much as I don’t like their earthy flavor, I am tempted to give it another try if I come across a well-prepared carrot greens cuisine.
These carrot tops are not poisonous as many would want to imagine.
In fact, they can be incorporated in raw salads just like any other common vegetable.
You can also juice them and do a blend with other fruits and vegetable juices.
Most people who use carrot greens in their recipes recommend softening them by blanching and adding some olive oil and garlic to mask the earthy taste.
It is interesting that almost all parts of a carrot plant are essentially good vegetables!
Next time you go shopping for groceries, keep in mind that the carrots should go into the vegetable basket.
If you had any doubts about classifying carrots for any reason, this should guide you in making an informed decision.
And finally, do not throw away those carrot greens with the assumption that they are poisonous.
Try them out in different recipes and see if you may fancy incorporating them into your regular delicacies.