Thursday, July 8, 2010

Focus: CARROTS (Daucus Carota)

I am generally a glass half-full kind of person, but I do have some worries that keep me awake at night.  One is the fact that tens of millions of American children (and adults too for that matter)  think that the only kind of carrots are the little stumpy bullets that come in plastic bags, machine shaped and ready for dipping into America's favorite salad companion - ranch dressing. 

We are talking about our children here - those whom we say we value more than anything else.  Our future.  The reason we work and save and don't drive too fast and refrain from swearing even when we would really like to.  So why don't we give them the good stuff?

Like real carrots.  Fresh, whole carrots scrubbed or peeled or cut up in your own kitchen.  Maybe even carrots from the farmers market or a CSA box or your garden.  Grated in a salad or a cake or muffins.   In sticks for dipping or eating plain.  Cooked and pureed in a soup.  Glazed.  Roasted. Blanched and served with parsley and butter.  Chopped and added to beef barley soup.  There is so much more to life than "baby carrots" in a plastic bag.  Shall we let our children in on the secret?  The world is full of wondrous things like real carrots and it is our job to experience and enjoy and be thankful for them - and the people who grow them.

Did you know that carrots originally came from what is now Afghanistan more than three thousand years ago - in colors of red, purple, black yellow and white?  Thank you Afghanistan.  It was only a few hundred years ago - in the 17th century - that the Dutch hybridized the bright orange variety that we know and love today.  Thank you Holland.

Carrots are the second sweetest vegetable after beets - but the average carrot has only 30 calories.  And that carrot contains enough beta-carotene to provide one adult with a full day's supply of Vitamin A. Carrots have have more beta-carotene than any other fruit or vegetable.  The deeper the orange color, the more the beta-carotene.  Older, more mature carrots have even higher levels of beta carotene.  Featherstone Farm's winter share CSA members will enjoy some of the best carrots to be had in Minnesota this fall and winter.  Their flavor is superlative.  I know.  I ate lots of them last winter.  It's the soil.

Most people know that Vitamin A is good for eyesight - especially preserving night vision.  But it also helps maintain healthy, youthful looking skin and lustrous hair.  It promotes healthy tooth enamel and proper bone growth in children.   Carrots are a beauty treatment.  Who knew?

Carrots are versatile.  They can be boiled, blanched, steamed, braised, sauteed, deep fried, pureed, glazed, baked or roasted.  Or eaten raw.  They can be shredded, diced, julienned, sliced or chopped into chunks.  They can be juiced.  They can be added to soups, salads, stews or desserts and baked goods.
They can be finely chopped along with celery and onion to form mirepoix - a classic French flavor base which is the beginning of many dishes.

Depending on the carrot and the planned use, you may be able to just scrub the carrot and avoid peeling. If you peel, just remove a thin amount of skin to avoid losing too many nutrients.

I hardly buy any vegetables at the grocery store.  If they don't come from my CSA box, the farmers market or our garden then I do without.  But for carrots I make an exception.  Grocery store carrots  are welcome in my vegetable crisper when my other sources run out.   That's how important carrots are in my kitchen. 

Here are grocery store carrots and Featherstone Farm carrots peacefully co-existing in my refrigerator.  I had purchased the grocery store ones before I knew the FFV carrots were on their way.  I am glad they are not fighting.  I think the broccoli laid down the law.

Do not store carrots with their tops on.  Cut off the tops right away and compost them.  Carrots will keep in plastic bags in your refrigerator for several months.  If there is a little dirt on them, just leave it.  They will keep longer and you can just scrub it off later. 


Carrot Cake
2 1/2 cups flour (part or all can be whole wheat pastry flour)
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/8 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. salt
1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. yogurt or buttermilk
1 c. raisins (golden or dark)
1. c chopped walnuts or pecans

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, soda and spices.  Set aside in a bowl.  Beat eggs and sugars together, then beat in oil.  Add dry ingredients, grated carrots, yogurt, raisins and nuts and stir well.
Pour into greased 9 x 13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees about 50 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool two hours in pan - on a wire rack.
If desired frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream cheese frosting
Beat together 8 oz. cream cheese and 5 T. unsalted butter - both softened but still cool.  Add 1 T. sour cream or buttermilk and 1/2 t. vanilla.  Then beat in 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar.

Spiced carrot yogurt salad
This has a lovely flavor and aroma.  This salad would be great served with a rice pilaf and grilled chicken or lamb.
1/2 cup currants
1/2 pound carrots, cut into matchsticks (2 cups)
Mix currants and carrots in following dressing.  This will keep in the refrigerator several days if you resist it that long.
2 t. minced garlic
1 T. olive oil or other vegetable oil
2 t. brown sugar
1/2 t. ground cardamom
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. minced or grated fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup plain yogurt


  1. What a great voice you bring to every subject of food! I love your asides and advice and good-for-you facts about nutrition and health.
    Thank you for making your topics fun.

  2. I laughed out loud at the caption to your crisper picture. Oh, how great your blog is!