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Today carrots have come a long way from their small, wild ancestors of ancient times. Originally grown for their leaves and seeds, it was not until the early Middle Ages that the delicious, mildly sweet roots were cultivated in earnest. By then, carrots came in a variety of colors and were often used to sweeten desserts in place of more expensive sugar. The familiar orange carrot so colored by its abundance of beta carotene which our bodies convert to vitamin A probably was not cultivated until the 17th Century, when depictions of the carrot started to appear in Dutch paintings of the period.