For generations, kids have watched Bugs Bunny gobble up pound after pound of carrots. And while many will always associate the carrot as rabbit food, there are plenty of reasons why we should all be gnawing on this super food.
Carrots originated more than 3,000 years ago in Central Asia and were originally white, yellow, and purple in color. Their first use was strictly for medicinal purposes and it was not until the 1600s that the Dutch developed the orange carrot for consumption. Today, carrots are grown worldwide in a variety of colors. While they are available year-round, they are at their peak from late summer to early spring.
Rich in beta carotene, Vitamin A, antioxidants, and fiber, carrots are a powerful food. They are a naturally fat free food and are low in calories, sodium, and cholesterol. Research has shown that eating carrots as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet can protect against stroke, heart disease, cancer, and various vision diseases such as glaucoma.
When purchasing, look for carrots that are well-shaped with smooth exteriors and bright leafy green tops. If purchasing carrots without the tops attached, look for stems that are not dark in color. Avoid carrots that are cracked or those that are limp or rubbery.
Carrots are a firm vegetable that, if stored properly, will keep for about two weeks. Carrots should be stored in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a dry plastic bag. To keep carrots fresher for longer, remove the green tops before storing and avoid storing carrots with apples or pears, as these fruits emit ethylene gas which will cause the carrots to become bitter.
Carrots can be enjoyed in a variety of ways; however, before consuming they should be gently scrubbed. Carrots are a delicious and nutritious food that can be eaten raw or cooked. Carrots are unique, compared to other vegetables, in that they lose very little nutritional value during cooking. In fact, cooking carrots causes their tough cellular walls to break down, which allows certain nutrients to be better absorbed by the body. Orange, dill, cumin, rosemary, cinnamon, and coriander are all flavors that pair well with carrots. Add carrots to salads, soups, stews, casseroles, stir-fries, and even baked goods.
French fries are a popular side dish for both kids and adults, but these carrot fries are a flavorful, healthier alternative.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30-35 minutes
1/2 tablespoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon each salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup butter
5-6 large carrots
Slice the carrots into French fry-sized pieces and place on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Melt butter and pour over carrots.
Season carrots with the dried dill weed, salt and black pepper.
Bake 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes, adjusting cooking time if you want the carrots softer or "crispier."
- Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother's kitchen. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site www.foodonthetable.com.