Winter Produce: Carrots

Winter Produce: Carrots

Orange carrots were not in existence until 400 years ago. The carrot comes from its ancestors the purple taproot which was cultivated thousands of years ago in Afghanistan.  Over time we moved from the taproot to purple, white, yellow, and red carrots.  Orange carrots didn’t come into existence until two breeders crossed a yellow and red carrot — thus giving us the orange carrots.  

The color of carrots are an indicator of the amount of nutrients they will pack. Purple carrots carry an overload of health benefits in comparison to orange carrots. Carrots nourish every system in the body, especially the liver, lungs, and stomach.

BENEFITS

Overall, carrots are low in fat, high in fiber, low in calories, and a good source of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene helps give carrots their beautiful color and  converts into Vitamin A.  Vitamin A supports your vision and eye health, immune system, and healthy skin. Besides carrots helping our eyes, carrots provide other benefits such as:

1. Plenty of potassium - which helps with muscle contractions. keeps your heart beating properly, and regulates blood pressure.

2. Lots of fiber. Fiber slows the digestion of food, which helps you feel fuller longer. Raw or lightly cooked carrots will provide these benefits. Juicing carrots removes the beneficial fiber.

3. Reducing the risk of developing heart disease.

4. Glowing skin - vitamin A and antioxidants help protect your skin from sun damage and free radicals (which can cause illness and aging).

5. Helping flush out toxins. Carrots contain properties that help reduce fat and bile in the liver that lead to a better functioning liver.

6. Nature’s toothbrush. Carrots acts a natural abrasive that scrubs away plaque and leftover food particles. Chewing carrots as the end of a meal can reduce coloration and clean the mouth.

7. Helping to prevent cancer. Not only does carrots contain antioxidants that help reduce the risk of cancer, they contain a natural pesticide that protects its roots from fungal disease.

BUYING

To get the freshest and best flavor, you should be looking for carrots with their tops still attached. The carrot will at least be a few weeks old rather than several months old without the tops attached.  The green tops will need to be removed before storing in the fridge.  The greens will suck out the moisture out of the carrots leaving them limp.  The carrots should be deep in color, a telltale sign that it is packed with vitamin A. Carrots should have good carrot smell as well.

Carrots are not one of those vegetables that are good to buy frozen. The peeling and processing of the carrots strip away most of the carrots nutritional benefits. It is best if you take the time to make your own baby carrots from whole carrots.

STORING

Carrots can be stored for several weeks without losing their nutritional value.  Store them in a plastic bag or container and store them in your crisper drawer of your fridge.  

COOKING

The best way to enjoy carrots are cooked.  Even though eating raw carrots are great, when you cook carrots it helps your body absorb the nutrients better.  Sautéing or steaming your carrots are the best cooking methods for carrots.  They help the carrots retain most of their nutritional value unlike boiling where are all the nutrients are leached into the cooking water. Also, to help your body absorb all of the beta-carotene it is good to have some type of oil or fat with the carrots.

COOKING TIP:  Cook your carrots whole then slice or chop them up, these helps the carrots retain most of the nutritional value. 

Carrots are a cool weather crop to grow in the spring and fall.  Look for purple or read carrots to get the highest nutritional benefits. Carrots are a great for gardening in small spaces, they are perfect for container gardening. 

I love to eat carrots with a side of blue cheese or pickled along with some radishes.  How you do you like to eat your carrots?  Drop me a comment below.  

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