Like other root crops, carrots are cool weather plants that do best with air temperatures between 55-70 degrees. Carrots grown in temperatures above 85 degrees will have foliage that suffers and develop a woody taste. Temperatures below 50 degrees slow production of the plant.
Carrots grow during the cool season of warm areas like northern Africa, the Middle East, and Australia. They grow globally and in most countries of the world. Carrots do best in sandy loam soils that are loose but there are varieties that do well in heavy clay and rocky soils.
China is the major global producer of carrots producing 45% of the world’s carrots and growing more than 8x Uzbekistan the second highest carrot producing country. There is nothing too surprising about this as China is a huge producer of most popular produce crops.
Carrots are consumed mostly fresh worldwide. In the US about 8 lbs. of fresh carrots and about 1.5 lbs. of frozen carrots are consumed per person every year.
What Countries Grow Carrots?
Here are the top 10 carrot producing countries: China, Uzbekistan, Russia, United States, Ukraine, Poland, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Indonesia, Turkey.
Production in China is in the spread throughout the country and takes place in Sichuan, Guizhou, Henan, Anhui, Inner Mongolia, Shandong, Fuijan and Hebie. Different areas alternate their harvest times of carrots so the country always has fresh carrots available. The year round availability and the good price on Chinese carrots give them a central role in the global carrot market.
Uzbekistan gained its independence in 1991. There was a rough patch during the countries transition as farmers had relied upon government run programs for their seed and distribution market. Since then Uzbekistan has become a significant global player in various agricultural crops.
What States Grow Carrots?
California produces about 85% of the carrots grown in the US. Michigan and Texas are other notable states of carrot production according to the AgMRC (Agricultural Marketing Resource Center). Almost all carrots produced in the states are consumed domestically with only about 6% being exported.
In all there are around 35 states that grow carrots commercially. This data from the agriculture census data is from 2012 but still gives an idea of what states grow carrots.
California produces carrots all year round with their lowest production coming in September, October, and November. The state has 4 main production areas of carrots: San Joaquin and Cuyama Valley, southern desert (Imperial & Riverside County), high desert (Los Angeles County), and the central coast (Monterey County).
The desire for uniform carrots with a dark orange color has led most commercial growers to grow varieties of Imperial carrots.
Where Do Carrots Come From?
Wild carrots originated in the Middle East. As a wild plant the carrots were an ivory white color. Domestication of these wild carrots began around the 10th century and the carrots that people were growing became yellow or purple varieties.
The carrot spread east and west and found their way to the Netherlands around the birthplace of the modern orange carrots we eat today around the 17th century. The Dutch found that the orange carrots they produced gave consistent yields and had a good taste. Other farmers and consumers must have thought the same and the modern day orange carrot was rocking.
In 2016 a complete genome of the carrot was done. It joined at the time only about 12 other vegetables that had their complete genome sequenced. Through this study it was found that the modern day orange carrot came from a yellow carrot variety.
It was also found that the carrot diverged from the grape 113 million years ago and from the kiwi about 103 million years ago.
For a more complete analyzing of the history of carrots check out the carrot museum online.
Where Do Carrots Grow Naturally?
Carrots grew naturally in the wild around the Middle East, northern Africa, mid southern Europe, and western Asia. They were white or purple in color when growing in the wild.
To learn how carrot plants grow and more check out “How Do Carrots Grow?” or you might be interested in “Are Carrots a Fruit or Vegetable or a Vegetable That Produces Fruit?“