Carrots are biennial plants - that means they flower in the second year of growth. We eat carrots in their first year – before the flowering stage. They are a member of the Umbelliferae family, which includes celery, parsnips, and fennel. The carrot originated in central Asia - and was purple! The orange carrot was first seen in Afghanistan, and has been bred over the centuries to be sweeter and more tender than its ancestors.

Nutrionally, carrots do well. They are laden with antioxidant compounds,  pro-vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, fibre, potassium and Vit B6, plus traces of other vitamins and minerals.

Carrots have been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer, promote good vision, and help regulate blood sugar levels. The Vitamin A is good for smokers - and for those who have to breathe other people’s smoke.

Carrot juice is perhaps the best vegetable juice. Sweet and nutritious, it combines wonderfully with apple to form a base for almost any other fruit or vegetable juice.  Try carrot juice with soy milk and banana for breakfast.

Carrot basics

The principle need is to prevent loss of moisture. Keep in a perforated plastic bag in the cool part of the fridge. If you buy carrots with tops on, take off the tops before storage to prevent them drawing moisture out of the carrot root.

Wash or scrub just before use. The soil on the root helps preserve moisture and prevents surface deterioration. Non organic carrots are almost always heavily sprayed to preserve their colour and texture – so peel them.

Eat carrots raw or cooked. Cut into sticks, use with dips. Grate with apple and beetroot for a colourful salad.

Carrot Recipes

Minted Carrots with Pumpkin Seeds

  • 6 carrots, scrubbed and cut into small pieces
  • chopped mint and parsley – quantities to suit
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pumpkin seeds
  • lemon juice and olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

Steam the carrots, leaving slightly firm on the inside. Toss with the rest of the ingredients. Serve warm as a side vegetable dish.

Oven Baked Carrots

  • Carrots
  • Shallots or small onions
  • Garlic
  • Butter or oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar, salt and pepper
  • Chopped fresh parsley.

Set the oven to 160 or Gas mark 3.

Scrub the carrots. Peel the onions / shallots and garlic. Cut all into pieces roughly the same size so they cook in the same time. Put the veg into a greased casserole dish. Add the lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper, and dot some oil or butter over the surface. Cover and bake for about 45 mins until the veg is tender. Don’t let the casserole dry out – add more lemon juice if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Try this recipe adding other veg – parsnips, squash, celeriac, beetroot, potatoes etc. Try leaving the skins on the onions and garlic.

Carrots make great additions to soup and casseroles, pasta sauce, curries, and salads.

Spiced Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup...(thanks to Gordon Ramsay)

  • 1 red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2/3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1.2 litres of chicken/vegetable stock
  • 75g dried spaghetti or small pasta shells
  • Parmesan Cheese

Finely chop the onion and garlic. Sweat the onion and garlic in the oil over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes until soft. Chop the carrots and butternut squash into 1.5cm dice and add to the pan. Season and cook for another 6-7 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.

Stir in teh thyme leaves and the fresh chilli, then pour in the stock. Stir and bring to the boil. Simmer for 25-30 minutes until the carrots and the squash are soft and beginning to break down.

Break the spaghetti into small pieces into the soup or add the pasta shells. Stir well and return to the boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked and the soup has thickened slightly. Check for seasoning and ladle into soup bowels. Sprinkle with the parmesan and serve.

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