Few snacks are as healthy and as portable as carrots. They are easy to slice and simple to pack, and they dunk well into hummus, creamy dressing, Greek yogurt, and guacamole. Crunching into a carrot with your favorite dip can almost make you forget you ever met a potato chip.
Carrots are an excellent choice for steaming and roasting, too. In fact, once the carrot breaks down a bit in the heat, it actually provides more of its signature vitamin A than when raw. This two-thousand-year-old Middle Eastern vegetable was once grown for medicine, not food. Now you can have it both ways.
So here’s the thing: not all carrots are orange! So don’t be surprised during your next trip to the farmers’ market, as you might discover yellow, white, red, and purple carrots alongside the common orange. They each vary slightly in flavor profile and size, but they’re all sweet, crunchy goodness.
Traditionally, the familiar orange carrot is a spear about five to eight inches long, sometimes with feathery leaves at the top. Carrots are part of the parsley family, so when you eat a carrot, that’s actually the root of the plant.
Young, slender raw carrots have a delightfully sweet crunch. Many people who enjoy juicing love blending raw carrots because they have more sugar than any other vegetable outside of beets. Cooking carrots further heightens their sweetness.
When carrots are not fresh or fat at the end, they can have a bitter tang. Bigger carrots usually taste better roasted.
Carrots are readily available in US supermarkets and at farmers’ markets.
In both the United States and Europe, bright orange carrots are plentiful all year long. However, some heirloom varieties appear only in the summer.
You want smooth, sturdy, well-shaped carrots with rich color and lacy green leaves.
Avoid carrots that are limp, cracked, or shriveling on the ends. Also pass by any that have hair-like roots.
Organic vegetables are noted for having a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals because the soil is free of leaching pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. Pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides may cause hormonal imbalance and complications with the nervous system. These chemicals may also increase erosion, contaminate ground water, and contribute to the devastation of honey bee populations. Conventionally grown carrots can easily absorb pesticide spray, so even when peeled, they pose a risk.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. Carrots rank #23, a little closer to the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” produce list than its “Clean Fifteen” list. Select organic carrots to minimize your exposure to pesticides.
The Environmental Working Group and Yoffie Life stress that consuming conventionally grown vegetables and fruits when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible is far better than eating none at all.
Whole, bagged carrots will keep in your refrigerator crisper for up to two weeks. If you purchase loose carrots with tops, remove the greens immediately, as they deplete the roots of vitamins and moisture. Then store the unwashed carrots in a sealed plastic bag for up to two weeks.
Rinse carrots in running water, and if you bought them individually, scrub them with a vegetable brush to remove any excess grime. Some people eat the carrot tops, even though they’re quite bitter. You can dice the greens and add them to soups, casseroles, eggs, and stew. Otherwise, remove them and toss in the compost pile.
You don’t need to peel tender, slim carrots, but it’s best to peel more mature or thick carrots for all cooking methods except juicing. From here, you simply slice the carrots in a way that best suits your dish: dice, chop, shred, julienne, slice into sticks of various lengths, or cut round medallions of different thicknesses.
A fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin A is involved in the development of rhodopsin, a molecule in the eye that promotes healthy vision. Vitamin A is also responsible for promoting the immune system, cell growth, skin health, and the formation of the heart and lungs as well as other bodily organs.
As a precursor to vitamin A, beta-carotene promotes healthy blood pressure and low-light visibility, and may protect against heart disease.
Vitamin K, specifically vitamin K2, is helpful for regulating and directing dietary calcium in and out of the bone. It is also responsible for proper blood clotting and may aid in protecting the arteries from calcification.
This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure, reducing heart disease risk.
Alongside sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte essential for conducting electrical reactions in the body. Potassium aids proper muscle function, digestive health, and skeletal contractions.
How many times were you told as a child to eat your carrots for your eyes? This isn’t just an old wives’ tale; the amazing amount of vitamin A and beta-carotene does help sustain good eyesight. In fact, the amount of the antioxidant beta-carotene in carrots was the inspiration for naming this vegetable. Carrots also enhance your immune system and improve skin cells.
- Carrots were initially grown not as food but for medicinal purposes.
- Carrots are in the same vegetal family as parsley, fennel, and dill. When you have a carrot, you’re eating the root of this plant, and the feathery fronds are the actual plant.
- Carrots are native to Afghanistan.