Carrots: are one of the most versatile root vegetables, used in both sweet and savoury dishes, and eaten either raw or cooked. As one of the world’s most widely eaten vegetable, carrots have a historic route in nearly every continent, although they have been extensively grown in Britain for over 400 years.
Although a close relative to parsley, fennel, dill and cumin, grown in the main for their flavoursome leaves and fronds, carrots are classified as a taproot, cultivated for their naturally sweet, conical shaped root. Now available in numerous colours; yellow, red, white and orange, carrots were once only of a purple variety.
It wasn’t until the 16th Century that the Dutch cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to their King, William I of Orange. Modern, or orange, carrots first appeared on our shores in the 17th century made popular by a farmer named John Aubrey, in the small Somerset village of Beckington.
This highly versatile and widely consumed vegetable has long been commended for its high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin K, both playing an important part in supporting healthy eyes, blood, bones and hearts.
Seasonal period: Available all year round but at their best mid-May to early October
Flavour friends: Coming from a family of umbellifers, carrots are sympathetic to parsley, fennel and dill, that similarly carry an underlying woodiness. Due to their bold sweetness, carrots are enhanced by aromatic flavours, particularly spices such as anise, cardamom and cinnamon that encourages their earthiness. Other classic combinations include orange, coriander, honey and cumin.
Buying, storing and preparing: Choose firm carrots that are vibrant in colour and smell fresh. If buying carrots with leaves still attached, the greens should look perky and feathery. The smaller the carrot, generally, the sweeter, although as the season progresses, they can become a little tougher and earthier in flavour. Wash thoroughly, top and tail and chop or slice into the desired size. Peel if skins are particularly dirty.
Cooking: Carrots can be enjoyed both raw and cooked, traditionally either boiled, steamed, roasted.
Raw: Once washed, thinly slice using a peeler, grated or chopped into batons. Boiled: Cut into batons and boil for 6 – 7 minutes. Steamed: Cut into batons and steam for approximately 5 minutes.
Words by Helen Upshall