native to: central Asia, Middle East, and southern Europe
in season here: late spring-fall
Carrots are famous for beta-carotene, which was named for them, but lately researchers have been looking at polyacetylenes. This is a phytonutrient found in carrots that inhibits the growth of colon cancer. On top of that, there’s the array of more traditional vitamins and minerals: thiamin, niacin, vitamin A, C, K, and B6; potassium, folate, and manganese.
Carrots are related to parsnips, fennel, parsley, celery, anise, caraway, cumin, and dill. The orange carrots we know are actually fairly recent arrivals; although they’ve been widely cultivated for thousands of years, they only came in purple, yellow, and red until sometime around the 16th century, which is also about the time they were brought to North America.
Carrots are on the sugary end of the vegetable spectrum and can be used as a mild sweetener in things like spaghetti sauce, tuna salad, and of course carrot cake. A medieval candy recipe involves cooking grated carrots, squeezing out all the liquid, and mixing the pulp with honey.
If you need to store carrots for any length of time, keep them moist and remove the greens. Although the greens have never caught on as a vegetable in their own right, they are edible. Snip them up to sprinkle over a salad or garnish carrot soup. Let your kids nibble on them to shock the neighbors. I ate carrot tops as a kid, and I turned out just … well, the point is, nice pesticide-free carrot tops are fine to eat. If you have a carrot-top eater in the family, tell ’em from me to go for it, the world needs more originality!
label-style nutrition information
Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.