This Meatless Monday, we focus on carrots, with tips on growing, storage and preparation, as well as recipes for Carrot-Ginger Soup and Carrot Cake from Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.
While we tend to think of carrots as being orange, they historically grew in a broad range of colors, from purple to yellow to white. Nowadays, some of these heirloom varieties of carrot are making a comeback. Carrots are thought to have originated somewhere around present-day Afghanistan, though the roots were probably scrawny and branching. After centuries of selective breeding the roots became thicker, sweeter, and less inclined to grow odd-looking arms and legs. Surprisingly, the orange variety of carrot probably wasn’t developed until the 18th century. According to one legend, the orange carrot was bred as a patriotic gesture by Dutch growers who were loyal to the House of Orange, the Royal Family of the Netherlands. It is more likely, however, that the orange vegetable was selectively bred for its flavor and was later adopted by the House of Orange for its color. Carrots have a very high sugar content for a vegetable, making them well-liked by kids around the world.
Carrots should be seeded directly into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. Transplanting is not recommended. Carrots generally like looser soils without competition from weeds. Rocky soils may cause the roots to branch. For both summer carrots and storage carrots, sow seeds through midsummer. Keep seedlings well-watered. To determine when carrots are ready to harvest, try pulling up a few and checking for size, color, and flavor. Carrots hold well if left in the soil, even after a frost, but be sure to dig them up before the ground completely freezes.
Once you pull carrots, cut off the greens, wrap the roots in paper towels, tuck loosely into plastic bags, and store in the refrigerator (the colder, the better). Carrots can be stored unwashed, too, if you grow them yourself. If you have a root cellar, carrots can be stored in damp sand for many months without deteriorating!
Carrots are known for being packed with Beta-carotene, which makes them their characteristic orange color. The human body processes beta-carotene into vitamin A, an essential vitamin for good eyesight. Carrots are also full of potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and various other minerals and antioxidants.
Always rinse and scrub carrots before eating. If the greens are still attached, chop them off and discard them. The skin can be left on, but many people choose to peel their carrots, especially if they are old and tough. Carrots can be eaten either raw or cooked; they lend themselves well to steaming and roasting. Be careful not to overcook, as that will damage flavor, texture, and nutritional value.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Carrot-Ginger Soup
(adapted from Maxine Bonneau: foodnetwork.com)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 6 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
- 4-5 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons grated ginger (or 1 tablespoon powdered)
- 1 cup milk or cream
- Salt and pepper
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent and soft, stirring often.
- Pour in broth, carrots, and ginger. Turn heat to low and simmer until carrots are tender.
- Puree mixture until smooth, either with immersion blender or in a standard blender (careful not to overfill with hot contents and take caution when removing lid).
- Return contents to pan, stir in milk, and reheat until piping hot. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Carrot Cake
(adapted from Rombauer et al: the Joy of Cooking)
Janice Santiago, a volunteer baking, tasting and testing recipes for us, tried out this carrot cake recipe. She commented, “Prep time for both the cake and the frosting (done while cake baking) wasn’t more than 30 minutes. This would be give or take especially since I hand grated the carrots, but not that much more for sure. So total time for cake 1 hour (give or take).” She also suggested that bakers measure out 1.5 cups of shredded carrots, rather than buying 4 medium carrots, which can range in actual size. Janice also got 20 servings out of this recipe, while our Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Guide says you can serve 10. You can see more of Janice’s baking experiments on Pinterest, including more photos from this recipe!
- 1 ⅓ cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 4 medium-large carrots, shredded
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)
- 8 ounces cold cream cheese
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch pan.
- Mix together dry ingredients.
- Stir in eggs and oil until just incorporated, then add carrots and nuts.
- Scrape the batter into the pan and shake the pan gently to distribute it.
- Bake 30-35 minutes.
- While cake is baking, make the frosting: beat together cream cheese and vanilla with electric mixer. Add confectioners’ sugar gradually until frosting reaches desired consistency.
- Allow cake to cool, then frost.
Note: raisins and orange zest make great additions to the cake, which can be eaten as a bread if left unfrosted.
“Cake came out very moist and delicious!! Very simple recipe – easy ingredients to find and work with…” ~ Janice Santiago
To receive more recipes and tips on your favorite fruits and vegetables, download Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.
We’re looking for more volunteers to test recipes and give us feedback on preparation time, cost and, of course, taste!