Califonia Bountiful

Rooting for carrots

Jan./Feb. 2015 California Bountiful magazine

Take a closer look at these colorful and healthy vegetables

More online: Crunching on carrots

Ralph Strahm and his family grow carrots in the Imperial Valley.

Roy, Loren and Ralph Strahm are brothers whose family has grown carrots in the Imperial Valley for more than 60 years—and their children are carrying on the tradition.

The Strahms and other farmers in California collectively grow more than 20 million pounds of carrots each year on approximately 70,000 acres throughout Kern, Imperial, Monterey and several other counties. That's about 80 percent of the nation's fresh carrots.

This root vegetable is a year-round crop in California, but peak season is October through April. Let's take a closer look at carrots!

Colorful past—and present

The first carrots were white, purple and yellow, and orange didn't join the rainbow of carrot colors until it was developed by the Dutch in the 1600s. Thomas Jefferson raised several colors of carrots in his Monticello garden, and shoppers and gardeners today can find carrots in an array of colors, in various sizes and shapes.

During the Middle Ages, French women used the feathery leaves from carrots to decorate hair and hats. The lacy foliage is quite edible, however, and rich in vitamin K. The leaves of other members of the parsley family, including dill, anise, fennel and chervil, share that fern-like appearance.

Carrot care

  • Look for firm, smooth carrots with no cracks. If leaves are attached, they should be moist and bright green.
  • Don't freeze carrots unless you blanch them first, or they'll be mushy when thawed.
  • If your carrots become limp or look dehydrated, soak them briefly in a bowl of ice water to restore color and freshness.
  • Refrigerate carrots, unwashed, in an open plastic bag in the vegetable bin for up to two weeks.
  • Carrots with greenery need a haircut before they're stored: Cut off the fuzzy fronds on top, leaving about 1 inch of stem. If leaves are left on, they deplete the carrot's moisture, flavor and nutrients.

What's up, doc?

Is it true that eating carrots helps your vision?

True! One medium carrot packs more than four times your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which not only supports eye health, but reduces the risk of certain cancers and helps build hair and nails, too.

Is it best to peel or eat the skin?

Many experts recommend a quick scrub rather than peeling to retain more nutritional value, as it's concentrated in and just under the carrot's skin.

Do carrots contain nutrients other than vitamin A?

Yes, they are low in fat and rich in fiber, plus they provide some vitamin C, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Hey, baby!

In 1989, a baby was born. The baby carrot, also called baby-cut and mini-carrot, quickly became a lunch and snack-time staple. The name "baby carrots" is a misnomer:

They're actually full-grown carrots that are peeled and cut to the desired length. Farmers plant carrots intended to be baby carrots closer together, so the roots stay slim.

Crunching on carrots

Here are some flavors and other types of foods that complement carrots, as well as some creative carrot recipes from California Bountiful TV and magazine.

Carrot complements:

  • Butter, olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil
  • Dill, thyme, caraway, cumin, paprika, parsley, chervil, cilantro, anise, mint
  • Soy, ginger, sesame seeds, green onions, shallots, honey, maple syrup
  • Feta cheese, beets, onions, burdock, parsnips, potatoes
  • Lemon, vinegars of all kinds

      (Source: Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison)

Carrot recipes:

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