Perhaps the most recognizable vegetable in the world, carrots are known for their kid-friendly sweetness and crunchy texture. While it is prized today for its bright orange root, carrot leaves and seeds offer an herbaceous flavor similar to its related plants such as dill and parsley.

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History

Domesticated from a wild plant native to Persia, carrots were originally grown for their leaves and seeds. Over time, the plant was selectively bred for a larger taproot, which became popular in the kitchens of ancient Rome and early Europe. Each century spread the carrot farther around the globe, from the Mediterranean and the Middle East to India and China. The orange carrot is fairly new, in terms of the vegetable’s history.

Nutrition

The bright orange color of carrots comes from a high concentration of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the human body processes into Vitamin A. Carrots are also rich in vitamin K1, potassium, and fiber.

Storage

Snip off leaves about ¼ inch from the top of the radish, clean off any soil, wrap in a damp cloth or paper towel, and store in an unsealed bag or container in a refrigerator crisper for up to 2 weeks. Avoid cutting the daikon before storing, as the potent smell will spread throughout your refrigerator. Well-dried leaves can be stored for up to a week.

Preparation

The bright colors and sweet flavor of carrots have made them a popular choice for every preparation you can imagine. An essential for crudite plates, raw carrots can also be grated, sliced, pickled, and juiced. Their firm texture stands up well to roasting, stewing, frying, or dehydrating. When steamed and mashed, they have a pulpy texture that makes for perfect baby food and is easy to add to baked goods.

Cooking

Peel carrots and chop into bite-size pieces, then add to a large saucepan and cover with water. Simmer until carrots are fork-tender. Add two spoonfuls of butter and two spoonfuls of sugar or another sweetener, along with salt, pepper, and a savory spice mix like vadouvan or garam masala. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened into a glaze. Top with finely chopped carrot tops or other herbs, and serve warm.

Pro Tips

Don’t discard carrot tops.

Atlas/Purple/Kyoto

These boutique carrot species offer interesting variations in flavor and texture. Atlas carrots are a 19th century variety with classic orange coloration and a thick barrel shape, great for cooking along with other root vegetables. Purple carrots have a slightly bitter undertone, almost like wine, and contain anthocyanins, a nutrient found in other purple vegetables and fruits that helps combat oxidative stress. Kyoto carrots, traditionally eaten on the Japanese New Year, are dark red in color and boast a rich, caramelly flavor and unusually smooth texture.

Chablis Yellow

More commonly grown in the eastern hemisphere, yellow carrots have the same distinct sweetness as orange carrots, but with an herbaceous undertone like celery or parsley. When cooked, they have an earthy flavor similar to sweet potato.

Orange

While the earliest carrot varieties were white, yellow, red and purple, it’s said that Dutch farmers are selected orange species for cultivation, as a mark of respect for their ruling family, the House of Orange. The orange carrot’s distinct sweetness led to its becoming the dominant variety in the western world.

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