The carrot is a classic root vegetable we see on our shelves and in our fridges year-round. Crunchy, delicious, and packed with all sorts of “good for you,” carrots are all too often looked over.
The carrots we conjure in our heads when someone mentions the word are probably of the orange-hued variety. These were once a novelty color and are the domesticated descendants of the wild variety which had a more white or ochre color.
Want to know a crazy fact? Carrots were first recorded as being cultivated in what is present-day Afghanistan nearly 1000 years ago. It soon spread to North Africa, Europe, and Asia.
The part of the vegetable that we consume the most is called the taproot. It is full of natural sugars and beta carotene as well as being very versatile in the kitchen. They can be used in sweet and savory dishes and are fantastic steamed, roasted, shredded, juiced, chopped, pickled, and more. (In addition to eating them raw.)
They come in a variety of colors and as you have probably noticed over the years, vary in flavor. This is very much dependent on the type of carrot and where it is grown.
In the fridge in the crisper drawer, carrots can last a few weeks.
What are the health benefits of carrots? They are low in fat and calories and a good source of fiber. And while they have a good amount of natural sugar, they are low on the glycemic index. They are high in beta carotene, the antioxidant that gives them their bright color. When we eat this, we convert it into vitamin A.
Past that, carrots are a good source of biotin, vitamins K1 and B6, as well as potassium. They have been associated with a healthy heart and eyes, thought to improve digestion, as well as staving off certain types of cancer.
What are baby carrots exactly?
So glad you asked! There are actually two types of baby carrot. The first is less common and exactly what it sounds like: a carrot harvested before it is completely grown.
The other type of baby carrot is a bit more counterintuitive and made from the fully grown variety. Big ‘ol carrots are ground down and polished into that perfect baby carrot shape and then typically given a wash in a chlorine solution (both FDA and EPA regulated) to kill certain bacteria.
Are carrots good for your teeth?
While they are no replacement for good, daily dental care, carrots can be great for teeth along with other crisp, raw fruits and veggies. As you eat them, they act as a natural toothbrush removing plaque and giving your gums a little love. Some of the nutrients in them are also associated with dental health.
Are carrot tops edible?
For the love of all that is good, if you have a grocery store or a farmer’s market that has ones with the greens still attached, buy them and do not throw the tops away.
Not only are they edible, but they are packed with nutrients, and most importantly, delicious. Use them in place of parsley in your chimichurri or in place of basil to make some pesto. You can sauté them with other greens or add them to a soup or stock. Waste not, want not!
If you do find the type with greens, be sure to cut them off before storing your them in the crisper drawer. They have a tendency to pull moisture from the carrot. The greens should be used the same day or the next day for optimal flavor and texture.