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Carrots

Carrots

As one of the many quintessential good-for-you ingredients, carrots can add nutrients and a characteristic orangey hue to a wide array of dishes — and they're great as a sweet, crunchy snack.

Nutritional Highlights

  • The main selling point for carrots is their vitamin A content, which helps promote healthy eyes and enables them to adapt to dim light. One large, raw carrot — about 85 grams, or two-thirds of a cup in all — contains more than 280 percent of your Daily Value of vitamin A!
  • With their notable levels of dietary fiber and naturally sweet flavor, raw carrots make a perfect midday snack.

History

If you could travel back in time just a few hundred years, you'd hardly recognize the carrot. Its early ancestors were small and white, with a tough, woody taproot. Not very appealing, is it? It wasn't until the 17th century that anyone began cultivating the large, sweet, orange variety we've come to know and love.

Varieties

Though they're harder to find in stores, dozens of different carrot variations exist, each with its own special color, size and taste. Some are white and similar in taste to a parsnip. Others come in hues ranging from yellow or reddish-orange to brown or even a deep purple. By far the most common type of carrot, though, is the Imperator variety, which is long, sweet and brilliant orange.

When are Carrots in Season?

Carrots are a hardy root vegetable, which makes them available pretty much whenever you like.

How to Choose Carrots

As a good rule of thumb, the most nutritive carrots are a deep orange color (which indicates a higher content of beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A). Try choosing those that have a long, well-shaped, unbroken taproot. Avoid carrots that are wilted or soft. When buying baby carrots, which usually come bagged, pick those that have a distant expiration date and a fresh, bright look.

How to Store Carrots

Carrots belong in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. If you buy them with the green tops still attached, cut these away, rinse and store your carrots in a plastic baggie. Be sure to keep them in a veggie-only drawer, since fruits can give off ethylene gases that can make carrots spoil quickly.

How to Cook with Carrots

In salads and crudité platters, carrots are crunchiest when served raw. Simply rinse them first and, if you like, chop to a desired size. If you'd like cooked or stewed carrots, peel and chop them before tossing them in a little boiling water. Cook until tender all the way through. Try seasoning them with tarragon, honey, lemon juice, parsley or ginger for a luscious, complex taste.

Key Measurements

Raw carrots are usually measured individually, whereas cooking recipes mostly call for them in cups, chopped or shredded.

Substitutions

Cooked parsnips are probably the closest thing to a good carrot, though you might also consider swapping them for cooked turnips or raw jicama, daikon radish or celery but the flavor will be distinctly different.

Carrots in Recipes

Though carrots are often portrayed as a stereotypically simple snack food — à la the diet of a certain cartoon rabbit who shall remain nameless — this ingredient is actually remarkably versatile. Here are a few unexpected uses to which you can put your carrots:

A slow-cooked Curried Carrot Soup makes the perfect Indian-style appetizer, especially when garnished with cilantro and crushed peanuts.

For a sweet way to complement a hot dog or hamburger, try spooning some cool Carrot and Celery Relish on top.

And you didn't think we'd skip the carrot cake, did you? This Lemony Carrot-Walnut Bread recipe is a craving-buster par excellence, dispensing with the frosting and delivering the warm, spicy loaves you love.

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