Grow it yourself: Carrots

Grow it yourself: Carrots

“If you don’t go to sleep, bugs bunny will come and eat you!” That’s what mother carrot tells her children when they’re naughty. And that’s why our mister carrot is a wee bit afraid of rabbits, although humans are also quite partial to his flavor. No wonder, when it’s so packed with goodness, good for clear vision and the ultimate free radical killer. Let’s say hi to the king of crunch.

Grow it yourself: Carrots

Bugs Bunny might scare all the poor little carrots, but he has made sure that generations of kids around the world know that carrots are great for your health. Packed with health-promoting beta-carotene, they promote good vision, especially night vision, and help combat health damaging free radical activity. Easy to pack and easy to carry, carrots are a nutritious, low-calorie addition to your healthiest way of eating, any time of the day.

Edible greens

The King of Crunch, scientifically known as Daucus carota, is a biennial herb in the Apiaceae family grown for its edible root. Not many people know that the root also produces gorgeous flowers if you leave it in the ground for the second year although very, very few carrots ever reach that stage of course. Carrots are related to parsnips, fennel, parsley, anise, caraway, cumin and dill. The foliage of the carrot plant can reach a height of 5 feet when in flower. Carrot roots have a crunchy texture and a sweet and minty aromatic taste, and the foliage is fresh tasting and slightly bitter. Yes, you read it right. The greens are also edible, so stop throwing them away!

Carrots are packed with nutritional value, can be processed into many forms, and can be stored for months – and all this means that they quickly became a popular foodstuff wherever they were taken from their home in Iran and Afghanistan. During their journey across the centuries and continents, countless botanists have managed to improve the composition, look, flavor and size of ancient carrots.

Grow it yourself: Carrots

Oh, the Dutch

We are all familiar with King of Crunch’s bright orange hue, but the modern-day orange carrot wasn’t cultivated until the late 16th century, when Dutch growers took mutant strains of the purple carrot and gradually developed them into the sweet, plump, orange variety that we all know today. Before this, pretty much all carrots were purple with mutated versions occasionally popping up including yellow and white carrots.

Some think the reason the orange carrot became so popular in the Netherlands was as a tribute to the House of Orange and their struggle for Dutch independence. This could be true, but it also might just be that the orange carrots that the Dutch developed were sweeter tasting and larger than their purple counterparts, thus providing more food per plant and tasting better.

Currently, the largest producer and exporter of carrots in the world is China. In 2010, 33.5 million tons of carrots and turnips were produced worldwide, with 15.8 million tons in China alone.

Grow it yourself: Carrots

Healthy little bugger

Forget about those vitamin A pills. With this crunchy orange power food, you’ll get vitamin A and a host of other powerful health benefits. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: carrots really are good for your eyes. It’s not just an old wives’ tale. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the liver. In the retina, that vitamin A is transformed into to rhodopsin, a purple pigment necessary for night vision.

Beta-carotene has also been shown to protect against macular degeneration and senile cataracts. A study found that people who eat the most beta-carotene have a 40 percent lower risk of macular degeneration than those who consumed little. And vitamin A also helps the liver secrete bile and flush toxins out of the body, aiding any natural detox regime. The high fiber content of carrots also helps to regulate the digestive system.

And how about this? Vitamin A promotes healthier skin because it protects the skin against sun damage. A vitamin A deficiency will cause dryness in the skin, hair and nails. Similarly, vitamin A prevents premature wrinkles, acne, dry skin, pigmentation, blemishes, and uneven skin tone. Would you like one more little tidbit on the benefits of the King of Crunch? Ok, here we go. Carrots help to prevent infection. They can be used on cuts, shredded raw or boiled and mashed. Bet you didn’t know that. So are you ready to grow now?

  • It is actually possible to turn your skin a shade of orange by massively over consuming orange carrots.
  • In ancient times, the root part of the carrot plant that we eat today was not typically used. The carrot plant however was highly valued due to the medicinal value of its seeds and leaves. For instance, Mithridates VI, King of Pontius (around 100 BC) had a recipe for counteracting certain poisons, the principal ingredient of which was carrot seed. It has since been proven that this concoction actually works.
  • The Romans believed carrots and their seeds were aphrodisiacs.
  • The largest carrot ever grown was ten kilos: grown by John Evans in 1998 in Palmer, Alaska.
  • Carrots are the second most popular type of vegetable after potatoes.
  • The name “carrot” comes from the Greek word karoton.
  • The beta-carotene that is found in carrots was actually named for the carrot itself.

Grow the King yourself

Carrot seeds are best planted in early spring and left till late summer, specifically February, March, April, and August and September. For the best results, carrots should be grown in sandy soil that does not retain water for a long time. The soil should also be free of stones. To prepare your carrot patch, dig up the soil, loosen it and turn it over. Then, mix in some fertilizer. Weather, soil conditions and age will all affect the taste of your carrots. Experts say that warm days, cool nights and a medium soil temperature are the best conditions for growing carrots that taste great. Carrots benefit from a plentiful supply of moisture and should be provided with 1 inch of water each week. Mulching around the plants helps to conserve moisture and reduce weeds.

Grow it yourself: Carrots

Sweet

Carrots need time to develop their full sugar content. This is what gives them their taste. If they are harvested too early, they will not have enough sugar. But carrots also lose their sweetness if you wait too long to remove them from the ground. The best way to judge if a carrot is ready to be harvested is by its color. Usually, the brighter the color, the better the taste.

Most people do not know that carrots can be grown during the winter months. If the winter is not cold enough to freeze the ground, you can grow and harvest carrots in the same way as during the summer months. If the ground does freeze where you are, simply cover your carrot garden with a thick layer of leaves or straw. This will prevent the ground from freezing. You can remove the ground cover and harvest the carrots, as they are needed.

Reaping the harvest

Your carrots will be ready for harvesting about twelve to sixteen weeks after sowing. Harvest carrots as soon as they are large enough to use; don’t aim to get the largest roots that you can or you’ll sacrifice flavor. Carrots are harvested by gently digging around the plant to expose the top of the root and gently, but firmly pulling the root from the soil by grasping the top of the carrot just above the root. Carrot tops should be twisted off and the roots washed prior to refrigeration in airtight bags. Carrots may also be stored in moist sand to keep them fresh prior to use.

Cook it yourself: the soup of kings

Can you smell that? It’s the smell of carrot soup in the afternoon. If you are not growing your own yet, run off to the farmer’s market and buy a bunch of crunchy kings and soup it up.

Grow it yourself: Carrots

  • 1 bunch medium carrots (any kind, any color)
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3-4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red pepper, minced
  • Chicken or vegetarian broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Thyme or other favorite herbs
  • Lemon juice
  • A little cottage cheese

Step 1: Sauté all the veggies in olive oil until soft. Add chicken or vegetable broth and water to cover vegetables and simmer for thirty minutes or so until soft. Add salt and pepper and your favorite herbs.

Step 2: Puree the soup in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to the pan and heat through. Add a dash of lemon juice and a dollop of cottage cheese. Now that’s the way to treat a King.

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