When you think of carrots, what is the first thing that comes to mind? One thing is for sure, you don’t think “Gee, you mean that long purple vegetable.” Well here’s news for you, carrots were not always orange! Carrots originated in Middle Asia with some historians believing that they were known as far back as Ancient Egypt over 5,000 years ago. It is not clear if they were actually cultivated at this time, however by the 10th. century in Afghanistan, they were being grown in the colors purple and white. These weren’t the only colors around, however. In addition to purple and white, carrots were grown in red, yellow and even black. To begin with carrots were not eaten as a vegetable, but rather in the times of the Ancient Romans, used as a medicinal herb and even as an aphrodisiac. Carrots were cultivated in Europe by the 13th. century, with many doctors prescribing carrots for medicinal purposes for ailments as varied as syphilis and animal bites!
Carrots were well-known to 16th. century botanists and writers, who described red and purple varieties in France, and yellow and red varieties in England. The Dutch cross-bred the yellow and red carrot to produce a variety that was symbolic of the House of Orange. This carrot quickly became popular and was further developed to become the sweet, orange carrot which is the most recognized color of carrot used throughout the world today?
Carrots arrived in Australia in 1788 and became an important food for the colonists. The Carrot Museum reveals that the carrot was introduced to America in 1609. In 1871 America developed its first carrot. It was called the Danvers carrot from its origins in Danvers, MA. However, the carrot did not become popular in the U.S. until after World War I, when soldiers returning from the war had been exposed to the carrot in French and European cuisines.
In the Second World War carrots were promoted by the British government and became one of the staple foods in England. People were encouraged to grow carrots in their gardens and to cook them in different ways. They were incorporated into both sweet and savory dishes. Growing this crop during troubled times helped people get sufficient amounts of nutritious food to eat in times of food scarcity and rationing.
Red and yellow varieties of carrot are eaten in China and Japan; with the purple carrot becoming increasingly popular in different states in America. There are also ‘rainbow’ carrots on the market. However, a single carrot is not multi-colored, the name comes from bags containing red, yellow, purple and orange carrots.
Today we know that carrots have great nutritional value and are low in calories. Not only that, but carrots are an excellent source of carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A. It is this particular vitamin that really helps with vision, which is why carrots are a great vegetable to add to your diet.
When you are preparing your carrots for eating, whether you plan on cooking them or eating them raw, there is something important to keep in mind: don’t peel the skin! In carrots, like many vegetables, most of the nutritional value is just below the skin, so instead of peeling, just scrub the skin clean with a vegetable brush. And choose organic varieties when you can.
When purchasing carrots, look for those with minimal sprouting at the top. In other words, if the carrot has started to grow, it has been sitting around for quite some time. Also look for little “hairs” growing along the carrot. This also indicates the carrot is growing and has probably been sitting around for awhile.
The best way to preserve the flavor, crispness, and beta-carotene content in carrots is to refrigerate them.
When preparing carrots, steaming is the very best method for cooking and preparing them. Steaming carrots allows the beta carotene to be more available and readily used by the body. Add a small amount of butter to help better absorb the vitamin A.
How to Cook Carrots on the Stove Top
Cook 1 pound carrots, covered, in a small amount of boiling salted water until crisp-tender:
7 to 9 minutes for 1/4-inch slices
4 to 6 minutes for strips
8 to 10 minutes for baby carrots
How to Cook Carrots in the Microwave
Place 1 pound carrots in a casserole dish with 2 tablespoons water.
Microwave, covered, on 100 percent power (high) until crisp-tender, stirring once:
— 6 to 9 minutes for 1/4-inch slices
— 5 to 7 minutes for strips
— 7 to 9 minutes for baby carrots
How to Steam Carrots
In a steamer cook 1 pound carrots until crisp-tender:
8 to 10 minutes for 1/4-inch slices
5 to 7 minutes for strips
8 to 10 minutes for baby carrots
How to Roast Carrots
Cut 1 pound carrots into 1-inch pieces. Arrange cut carrots or baby carrots in a baking pan.
Toss carrots with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and other seasonings, if desired.
Cover pan with foil.
Bake in a 425 degree F. oven for 30 minutes.
Remove foil; stir carrots.
Bake, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes more or until carrots are tender.
Wholesome Baby Food Recipe
Carrots should be peeled when making baby food purées as many infants will not be able to digest the skins. If you do not buy Organic carrots, please cleanse the carrots by using a vegetable brush and lightly scrubbing the carrots under cool running water.
Any amount of fresh carrots you desire
1. Peel carrots and cut into small chunks
2. Place chunks into a steamer pan with just enough water visible through the steamer basket
3. Steam until tender
4. Do not reserve any left over water to use for thinning out the carrots if baby is under 8 months old as Nitrates may seep into the cooking water
5. Puree with your choice of appliance.
6. Add purified water as necessary to achieve a smooth, thin consistency.
Carrots Braised in Marsala Wine
For this simple dish to taste extraordinary, you need the best-quality Italian dry Marsala. Others would give a harsh taste or none at all to the dish. If you can’t find one, use another braising liquid, such as chicken or vegetable broth.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 pounds carrots, cut into large matchsticks or 1/4-inch-thick round slices
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Small grating of fresh nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 cup dry Marsala
- Chopped hazelnuts, optional
Choose a straight-sided sauté pan that has a tight-fitting lid and is just large enough to hold the carrots in one or two layers. A pan that is too large will allow the liquid to evaporate too quickly; if it is too small, the vegetables will be piled too high to braise evenly.
Melt the butter over moderate heat, so that it melts without taking on any color. Stir the carrots into the pan, and season with salt and pepper, nutmeg, and sugar. Turn the carrots over several times with a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spatula or spoon to coat them well with the butter and seasonings. Cook gently — do not fry — stirring often, for about 2 minutes, to release the vegetable’s flavor, and then pour in the Marsala. Bring to a quick boil, and then adjust the heat so the carrots just barely simmer. Cover the pan tightly and braise, shaking it well from time to time, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Check the pan occasionally, and if the liquid has evaporated before the carrots are cooked, add small amounts of hot water. When the carrots are tender, there should be only enough liquid left just to coat them. If there is more, turn the heat to high and boil it off. Sprinkle with hazelnuts.
Carrots Braised in Lemon and Parsley: Before adding the carrots to the butter, cook one finely chopped small onion until it is tender. Substitute broth for the Marsala, and add a teaspoon of lemon juice. When the carrots are tender, stir in 3 tablespoons of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, and toss a minute before serving.
Braised Carrots with Parmesan Cheese: Braise the carrots with broth and when they are cooked, turn off the heat and sprinkle on 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
A simple side dish is all you need to accompany the Basil Walnut Fish Fillets. You can substitute julienned zucchini or yellow squash for the carrots…just reduce the cooking time slightly.
- 3 cups julienned carrots
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup sliced green onions
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- Dash pepper
In a large skillet, saute carrots in oil for 3 minutes. Add onions;
cook 4-5 minutes longer or until crisp-tender. Stir in lemon juice,
Italian seasoning, garlic salt and pepper. Yield: 4 servings.
Roasted Root Vegetables
- 4 carrots
- 4 parsnips
- 1 large sweet potato
- 3 Yukon Gold potatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped, dried or fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary or thyme) to taste
- Garnish: fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary or thyme), chopped
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut all the veggies into similarly sized pieces. Place all the cut vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss well so all pieces are lightly coated. Add salt, pepper and herbs to taste. Roast for 25 to 35 minutes until all the vegetables are tender, turning once. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serves 6.
Italian-Style Marinated Carrot Salad
This Italian twist on carrot salad uses almost no fat and just a few ingredients, yet it is deliciously flavorful and has a wonderful texture. The work is all in the vegetable preparation. The recipe calls for the carrots to be cut into matchsticks, but any size will do. Just make sure to steam the carrots a little longer if your pieces are on the plump side. Its flavor improves with a day’s rest in the refrigerator. Fresh herbs may be used, but I prefer to use dried, because fresh herbs tend to darken when the salad marinates overnight.
MAKE AHEAD: The salad needs to be assembled and refrigerated overnight so the flavors have a chance to meld.
- 1 pound carrots, cut into 2- to 3-inch-long matchsticks
- 1 or 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary and/or thyme; may substitute 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, finely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Steam the carrots until they are just tender to the bite but still retain their shape, about 3 minutes for 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks. Do this in batches so the carrots cook evenly. As each batch is done, turn out onto a shallow baking pan, spreading the carrots out to cool slightly.
Combine the herbs to taste, the oil, vinegar, salt, sugar and the pepper in a large bowl.
Transfer the still-warm carrots to the bowl; toss to combine and coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate the salad overnight. Before serving, toss the salad again. Serve at room temperature.
Fusilli with Braised Fennel, Carrots and Scallions
- ¾ lb fusilli
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ½ lb fennel
- 3 ½ oz carrot
- 7 oz scallions
- 3 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 tablespoon fennel tops, chopped
- 2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Slice the fennel bulbs in half, then into thin slices. Slice the carrot into rounds, 1/8th inch wide. Peel and mince the garlic. Slice the onion into ¼ inch pieces.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.
Once hot, add the minced garlic. When the garlic begins to turn golden, add the fennel and carrot and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir from time to time.
Then add the onion and cook for another 3 minutes.
Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Drain and toss with the sauce in the skillet.
Stir in the Parmigiano Reggiano and garnish with the fennel fronds before serving.
- Where do Carrots Come From (wanttoknowit.com)
- Where Do Baby Carrots Come From? Behind the Scenes at a Baby Carrot Harvest – Grower Tour (thekitchn.com)
- Autumnal and Orange — Spiced Carrot Soup (currentmom.com)
- Carrots Gain Bigger Roles at Some Restaurants (nytimes.com)
- Shredded Carrot Cranberry Salad (health-heretic.com)
- Maple Glazed Carrots (emjoyable.wordpress.com)
- Carrot Ginger Soup (dannivee.wordpress.com)
- Sauteed Carrots with Dill (glutenfreeinga.wordpress.com)