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Meal Planning Meal Planning

Ingredient of the Week, September 23: Carrots

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Carrots

Although carrots are available throughout the year, locally grown carrots are in season in the summer and fall when they are the freshest and most flavorful. Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family, named after the umbrella-like flower clusters that plants in this family produce. As such, carrots are related to parsnips, fennel, parsley, anise, caraway, cumin and dill. Carrots can be as small as two inches or as long as three feet, ranging in diameter from one-half of an inch to over two inches. Carrot roots have a crunchy texture and a sweet and minty aromatic taste, while the greens are fresh tasting and slightly bitter. While we usually associate carrots with the color orange, carrots can actually be found in a host of other colors including white, yellow, red, or purple. In fact, purple, yellow and red carrots were the only color varieties of carrots to be cultivated before the 15th or 16th century.

Description

As one of the most popular root vegetables in the U.S. - and widely enjoyed in many other countries as well - carrots almost feel like an old friend for many people who are looking for just the right crunchy snack or addition to a salad.

The name "carrot" comes from the Greek word "karoton," whose first three letters (kar) are used to designate anything with a horn-like shape. (That horn-like shape, of course, refers to the taproot of the carrot that is the plant part we're most accustomed to consuming in the U.S.). The beta-carotene that is found in carrots was actually named for the carrot itself!

How to Select and Store

Carrot roots should be firm, smooth, relatively straight and bright in color. The deeper the orange-color, the more beta-carotene is present in the carrot. Avoid carrots that are excessively cracked or forked as well as those that are limp or rubbery. In addition, if the carrots do not have their tops attached, look at the stem end and ensure that it is not darkly colored as this is also a sign of age. If the green tops are attached, they should be brightly colored, feathery and not wilted. Since the sugars are concentrated in the carrots' core, generally those with larger diameters will have a larger core and therefore be sweeter.

Carrots are hardy vegetables that will keep longer than many others if stored properly. The trick to preserving the freshness of carrot roots is to minimize the amount of moisture they lose. To do this, make sure to store them in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel, which will reduce the amount of condensation that is able to form. They should be able to keep fresh for about two weeks. Research has shown that the especially valuable (all-E)-beta-carotene isomer is well-retained in carrots if stored properly. Carrots should also be stored away from apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas since it will cause them to become bitter.

If you purchase carrot roots with attached green tops, the tops should be cut off before storing in the refrigerator since they will cause the carrots to wilt prematurely as they pull moisture from the roots. While the tops can be stored in the refrigerator, kept moist by being wrapped in a damp paper, they should really be used soon after purchase since they are fragile and will quickly begin to wilt.

                          

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Wash carrot roots and gently scrub them with a vegetable brush right before eating. Unless the carrots are old, thick or not grown organically, it is not necessary to peel them. If they are not organically grown, peel them; most all conventionally grown carrots are grown using pesticides and other chemicals. If the stem end is green, it should be cut away as it will be bitter. Depending upon the recipe or your personal preference, carrots can be left whole or julienned, grated, shredded or sliced into sticks or rounds.

Carrots are delicious eaten raw or cooked. While heating can often damage some of the delicate phytonutrients in vegetables, the beta-carotene as found in carrots has been shown to be surprisingly heat-stable. In fact, carrots' beta-carotene may become more bioavailable through well-timed steaming. Still, be careful not to overcook carrots if you want to your carrots to retain their maximum flavor and strong overall nutritional value.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

Shredded raw carrots and chopped carrot greens make great additions to salads.

Combine shredded carrots, beets and apples, and eat as a salad.

For quick, nutritious soup that can be served hot or cold, purée boiled carrots and potatoes in a blender or food processor, and add herbs and spices to taste.

Spiced carrot sticks are a flavorful variation on an old favorite at parties or at the dinner table. Soak carrot sticks in hot water spiced with cayenne, coriander seeds and salt. Allow to cool, drain and serve.

                 

Do you like carrots raw or cooked? Please share your favorite recipes for carrots.

by on Sep. 23, 2012 at 7:18 AM
Replies (11-18):
michiganmom116
by Rhonda on Sep. 23, 2012 at 1:06 PM
1 mom liked this

Shredded Carrot Salad

  • 2 c. shredded carrots
  • 1 medium apple, cored and diced
  • 1 handful raisins
  • 1 handful sunflower seeds
  • Dressing made of 1/3 to 1/2 c. mayonnaise, 1 to 2 Tbsp. milk, honey or sugar to taste

Mix together; serve.

aenima49
by on Sep. 23, 2012 at 2:15 PM

I like raw carrots & carrot juice!

SweetLuci
by Platinum Member on Sep. 26, 2012 at 9:34 AM
1 mom liked this

 I make a similar version, everyone thinks it's sweet potatoes. lol

Quoting michiganmom116:



Carrot Souffle:   more like a dessert than a side dish.

  • 2 lbs. carrots, peeled and sliced or 32 oz. carrots (I used some of our home canned carrots)
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup light cream or milk


Topping:

  • 1 c. crushed cornflakes (I think it would be great with wheat flakes too!)
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans (optional)
  • 4 Tbsp. melted butter or margarine
  • 1 Tbsp. flour


Cook carrots until soft. Put into food processor or mixing bowl. Add rest of ingredients and process or mix until smooth. Pour into casserole dish. Mix topping ingredients together and sprinkle on top of carrot mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

 

August07Mom
by Tiesha on Sep. 26, 2012 at 9:42 AM

I love them cooked and raw. My DD could sit and eat a bag of them by herself. :)

jessicasmom1
by Platinum Member on Sep. 26, 2012 at 1:43 PM

only raw carrots I can not eat the cooked

andrea96
by on Sep. 26, 2012 at 1:55 PM

I don't really like carrots. I will eat them cooked in things, like stews, but that's it. My kids like raw carrots, but not cooked.

lillucky8
by on Sep. 27, 2012 at 2:54 AM
Yum i love carrots
Posted on CafeMom Mobile
SweetLuci
by Platinum Member on Sep. 27, 2012 at 5:21 PM

 My kids like them prepared this way:

Honey Glazed carrots
1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup water
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup honey or brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup orange juice
Bring water to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook till carrots are crisp-tender. Add rest of ingredients. Simmer for 5 minutes. Thicken with 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water if needed.

You can also use frozen carrots, just cook in boiling water about 5 minutes, or until thawed, then continue with recipe


 

 

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