The carrot is a root vegetable, usually orange, purple, red, white, or yellow in colour, with a crisp texture when fresh. The edible part of a carrot is a taproot. It is a domesticated form of the wild carrot Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia. It has been bred for its greatly enlarged and more palatable, less woody-textured edible taproot, but is still the same species.
It is a biennial plant which grows a rosette of leaves in the spring and summer, while building up the stout taproot, which stores large amounts of sugars for the plant to flower in the second year. The flowering stem grows to about 1 metre (3 ft) tall, with an umbel of white flowers that produce a fruit called a mericarp by botanists, which is a type of schizocarp.
Carrots can be eaten in a variety of ways. Raw carrots should be thoroughly washed: raw vegetables may carry harmful bacteria or parasites. Only 3% of the β-carotene in raw carrots is released during digestion: this can be improved to 39% by pulping, cooking and adding cooking oil. Alternatively they may be chopped and boiled, fried or steamed, and cooked in soups and stews, as well as baby and pet foods. A well known dish is carrots julienne. Grated carrots are used in carrot cakes, as well as carrot puddings, an old English dish thought to have originated in the early 1800s.
The greens are edible as a leaf vegetable, but are rarely eaten by humans, as they are mildly toxic. Together with onion and celery, carrots are one of the primary vegetables used in a mirepoix to make various broths.