In Season: Carrots

by in In Season, September 14, 2009

Baby Carrots
Carrots have a bad rep as “rabbit food,” but there’s nothing boring about them. With all their flavor and health benefits, they’re worth celebrating this time of year, and we’ve got recipes for the occasion — plus, the story behind baby carrots.

What, Where & When?
Appearing in farmers’ markets as early as May, fresh carrots are available through December in some parts of the country. Even though orange is the classic color, you can find purple, yellow, red and white varieties. Carrots are also unique because they grow downward into the soil instead of upwards towards the sun.

Carrots can range in length from three to nine inches. Here’s the truth: Most of the “baby carrots” you see in the grocery store are actually full-grown carrots that have been chopped and whittled down to to that miniature appearance. Some farmers do this so they can use up deformed carrots instead of tossing them. Because the carving process removes the outer layer of skin, carrot “babies” are dipped into a bath of chlorinated water before packaging to preserve freshness and kill bacteria. The process is considered safe, but you can always avoid it by cutting up your own full-size carrots. Read this USA Today article to learn more about the birth of baby carrots.

Nutrition Facts
You can eat a whole cup of carrots for fewer than 55 calories! They’re also one of the best sources of beta-carotene around. That’s the antioxidant form of vitamin A, which helps maintain good eyesight and protect the body from heart disease and certain types of cancer. Eating carrots will also give you fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium.

What To Do With Carrots
Don’t get stuck on carrot sticks! Carrots’ sweet and aromatic quality means they pair well with everything from brown sugar to curry powder to just a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. Use them raw in salads, slaws, sandwiches and juices. I’m always amazed how delicious a classic shredded carrot salad with raisins, vinegar and spices can be.

Cooking carrots really brings out their sweetness. I love them roasted, grilled or boiled and mashed with other root veggies such as parsnips, turnips and sweet potatoes. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try baking them into breads, cakes, muffins and cookies. They add natural sweetness and help to keep your baked goodies moist.

Shopping Tip: Choose carrots that are firm and brightly colored. Cut off the green leafy top, if it’s attached, and store your bunches in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Carrots like the cold, so the bottom of the produce drawer is a great spot to stash them.

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Comments (15)

  1. Tamara says:

    I agree that carrots are amazing, but the amateur botanist in me can't help addressing the sentence "Carrots are also unique because they grow downward into the soil instead of upwards towards the sun." The "carrot" part of the plant we know is actually a taproot, not a stem, so it isn't unusual at all that it grows "downwards"–it has exactly the same growth pattern as every other angiosperm. It's not some crazy inverted mutant; we just ignore the "plant part" we don't see in supermarkets.

    We also eat other roots all the time: onions, potatoes, radishes, ginger etc.

  2. elaine says:

    i really need help there arnt many things my family will eat they are very picky they will not eat most vegies & few fruits im desperate for recipe ideas, they wont eat chicken @ all in any way, & carrots, tomatoes, beans, yams, potaoes are the only vegies they will eat however i have a little help because my family loves fruit, cheese, bread & pasta, but its not easy to eat healthy when your cooking for a house of picky eaters, please somebody help me with some recipe ideas i would greatly appreciate it.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I think that getting your family involved in the cooking might encourage them to try more things. Also a good tip is not giving them a choice, cook one meal for the entire family…if you give them too many options they become passive and picky.

    But onto some family friendly recipes!! Pannis/gilled sandwhiches are great! You can get a great whole grain bread, and then stuff it with tones of veggies and they are easy to personalize. Grill up some eggplant/portebellos, red peppers, carrots, onions (just throw every vegetable in there). You can spice them up with differnt mustards/yogurt sauces.
    Also you mentioned your family is big on pasta…try using quinoa or bulgur wheat. These are complete protiens and high in fiber…much more nutrients than a pot of pasta. Give it some great flavors using sundried tomatoes, olives, raisins, feta, spices, lemon juice, pestos, olive oil, etc.
    Also a great way to get your family into veggies is just throw them into a food processor/blender and make a dip! Give them whole wheat pitas, sliced carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers to use instead of chips.

  4. A.C. says:

    What about the carbs in carrots? For some reason they always seem to make me hungry before too long, and I think it's something about the way my body metabolizes the carbs so that it just doesn't stick with me. It's the same way with white rice (brown is better, but still doesn't "stick" as long as you'd think). Does this make sense?

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