For many of us, carrots were a baby step towards eating vegetables, easy to love for their crisp sweetness. They bring out the natural sugars of other vegetables, add warmth to soups, give crunch to a salad, and complement hearty meats. Plus, studies keep finding new health benefits of regular carrot consumption, ranging from reduced cardiovascular disease and glaucoma to cancer-fighting properties.
Carrots originated in the Middle East and were probably brought from Europe to North America during the colonial period. Carrots have been bred for year–round cultivation, though peak season varies slightly with climate. Most American farmers will be seeding in spring for the coming summer and fall. Carrots come in many colors, so look around for the prized Scarlet Nantes, Purple Dragon, or Chantenay. The freshest carrots will have firm roots, vivid coloring, and spritely greenery. All parts are technically edible, so save scraps and extras for stock or tomato sauce! They last months in an airtight container in the refrigerator (you may wrap any greens in damp paper towels). For conventional carrots, we recommend washing and peeling to remove debris and pesticides.
Here are some of our favorite ways to eat carrots…
Fresh carrots don’t need much other flavoring, so steaming, boiling, or glazing make great options. Steaming is a simple, healthy cooking method that generally retains nutrients, requires no cooking fat, and results in firmer texture (though most people won’t complain about a little seasoning, honey, bacon bits, or butter to finish).
Salads & Slaws
Raw carrots are delicious in salads with mixed vegetables and other tasty ingredients like apples, nuts, and chicken. Grate them, slice them on the mandoline, make ribbons with a vegetable peeler, or shortcut your prep by pulsing your vegetables in the food processor! Or try pickling them for an antipasto platter or mixed grill.
Soups & Stews
Carrots make for excellent soups. Use them as part of the mirepoix base, simmered in chunky beef, potato, and onion medleys, or in the starring role, like Carrot Soup with Bleu Cheese.