Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Carrot



Michael Jordan watched by Bill Murray, reaches in to collect his golf ball and disappears into the hole. Some seconds later, dazed and confused, he sees Bugs Bunny leaning against a tree, chomping on a carrot.


In 1935, Robert Watson-Watt and Arnold Wilkins proved that radio waves could potentially be used to detect aircraft, following a top-secret radar experiment using a BBC radio tower.

In 1940, though, the British media said instead that RAF pilots were fed huge amounts of carrots. Their high levels of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body, allowed pilots to see in the dark. This explained their success in air battles…


Carrot seeds are a natural ‘morning after’ contraceptive, oil from them is used in cosmetic anti-wrinkle creams, and steeping the seeds and roots in water produces an organic insecticide.


In 2008, genetic engineers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas altered the carrot genome and produced a carrot that provides 40% more calcium than regular ones. Such genetically-modified vegetables could become vital for warding off diseases – such as osteoporosis, a bone condition that currently affects over 25 million people and costs €40 billion each year in the European Union alone.


I went to school with a guy who had to leave school, to go to another school

Because he got bullied, because he was a carrot-top.

But the tops of carrots are green.


International diplomacy is a tricky business. When one country gets mad, it often wants to show another country that it is powerful, but reasonable. They might offer military support if the country agrees to something, sanctions if they do not.

This is called the carrot-and-stick approach, offering a reward while also threatening a punishment. It’s also a great way to lead a donkey off a cliff.


In 1975 a coroner attributed a man’s death to an addiction to carrot juice.

In 1992 a Czech medical study detailed the cases of three people addicted to carrots.

In 1996 an Australian doctor diagnosed a woman with a carrot addiction.

It’s a rare condition, but compulsive carrot eating has been around for a while. Common symptoms include intense carrot craving and withdrawal, nervousness, insomnia and irritability.


Carrots get their orange colour from having high levels of beta-carotene. This organic pigment is known as E160a, a food colouring agent. It is responsible for the natural colour in the most common kinds of carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins. If you eat too many carrots you can turn orange, or at least orangey-yellow, a skin condition called carotenosis


According to his original animators, Bugs Bunny’s iconic carrot-chomping stance was first created as a comical imitation of a famous scene in the 1934 Hollywood film It Happened One Night, featuring Clark Gable.


Carrots in Europe were mostly purple until the 16th century, when Dutch farmers supposedly selectively bred the orange variety in honour of King William the Silent, or William of Orange.

You can still get purple carrots, or at least purple on the outside.

But the colour mostly fades when you cook them.


Imperator 58 sounds like a sci-fi character. It’s actually the botanical name of the carrot you’ve probably eaten from a garden – skinny, tapering, orange, and very sweet.


Clark Gable may have set a bad example by smoking cigarettes in It Happened One Night. He also eats a carrot, and a 2008 study by the American Cancer Society suggests that high doses of beta-carotene increase the probability of lung cancer for people who smoke cigarettes. This is possibly because beta-carotene oxidises in lungs with cigarette smoke and forms metabolites, which can encourage carcinogen-creating enzymes to do their thing.


Bolshy, boyish men often dismiss salad and vegetables as ‘rabbit food’.

But it’s probably the boys who should be eating carrots, not the bunnies.

Rabbits look really, really cute nibbling on a carrot, and they certainly love them. However, a 2012 University of Bristol study showed that increased levels of tooth decay and digestive problems in rabbits is due to them being fed too many high-sugar, high-starch carrots and other vegetables.

The RSPCA animal charity launched a campaign in the UK called Hay Fever, to encourage owners to feed rabbits more hay, and fewer carrots.

Blame Bugs.

This series is inspired by Wallace Stevens’ Thirteen Ways of looking at a Blackbird. David McKenzie looks every month at the most normal food you can imagine and offers a fresh view on it. In thirteen different ways.


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