By Stephanie Shaw, EMU Dietetics Student
My first task at the Farm was to weed the carrots that had been planted on 8/24/13. They were so little, with the stems barely reaching 2 inches above the ground. Now (within 7 weeks), the stems average a height of 12 inches high. They have grown quite a bit and are almost ready to hand harvest – look for them at Wednesday’s Market.
Over approximately 60 to 70 days, the carrot (Daucus carota var. staivus) matures from a seedling into a harvestable taproot (a root that grows downward into the soil and swells). Carrots are naturally sweet, since they store sugar in their roots in order to have enough energy to bloom the following spring. Additional sweetness may develop when growing carrots in the fall and through the winter months due to the fact that the plant survives the cold by increasing the sugar concentration within its roots. There is also a varying sweetness within the two distinct core regions of a mature carrot. The inner core is called the xylem and the outer core is called the phloem; sugars are higher in the phloem. Therefore, carrots that completely mature and develop larger outer cores are considered higher-quality carrots.
I have included some photos that were taken as the carrots grew. When looking at the photos you may notice that he stem is longer than the edible portion of the taproot, however, carrots develop a deep root system of thin roots that can reach depths of 30 to 36 inches.
As I was reading about the growth of carrots, I discovered some interesting historical facts. Carrots are part of the parsley family with varieties that will develop purple, red, yellow, white or orange colored roots. The original root was purple and was most likely domesticated in Afghanistan. In the mid-1700s, the reddish-orange carrots became popular and were grown throughout Germany, the Netherlands and England.
To name just a few nutritional benefits, eating carrots will provide vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and potassium. There are so many ways to prepare carrots, some ideas for raw carrots are snack on them plain, dip them in humus or add shredded carrots to a lettuce salad. They taste great cooked too – heat them up by steaming, boiling or roasting to desired tenderness and serving them as a side for any meal. Roasted carrots sound like the perfect thing to make on a cold fall day, here is a recipe that you might like to try. I am also including a recipe for Thai inspired appetizer pizzas that I developed in order to combine all of the great produce that we have had at the Farmers’ Market.
1. John M Swiader and George W. Ware, “Producing Vegetable Crops,” 5th Edition.
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill or parsley
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If the carrots are thick, cut them in half lengthwise; if not, leave whole. Slice the carrots diagonally in 1 1/2-inch-thick slices. (The carrots will shrink while cooking so make the slices big.) Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a sheet pan in 1 layer and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until browned and tender. Toss the carrots with minced dill or parsley, season to taste, and serve.
Recipe courtesy of The Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-carrots-recipe/index.html
Thai Inspired Mini Grilled Pizzas
Makes 20 Mini Appetizer Pizzas
1 Tbs. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbs. Fresh Squeezed Lime
¼ Tbs. Coriander
Salt and Pepper As Desired
1 Cup Diced Red Pepper
1 Cup Rough Chopped Cabbage
½ Cup Shredded Carrots
1 Cup Light Coconut Milk
½ Cup Peanut Butter
1 Tbs. Light Soy Sauce
3 Tbs. Olive Oil
20 Mini Pitas
Preheat grill or grill pan to medium heat.
Assemble topping: Mix together vinegar, lime, coriander, salt and pepper. Add red pepper, cabbage, carrots and garlic. Gently stir together.
Assemble peanut sauce: In a sauce pan combine coconut milk, peanut butter and soy sauce. Heat over medium-high heat. Stir often until mixture starts to simmer. Gently simmer for approximately 2 minutes until mixture slightly thickens. Remove from heat immediately and transfer to a bowl.
Lightly brush olive oil on pita bread. Use fork to gently poke a few holes in the top of the pita (this keeps it from expanding while cooking). Assemble pizzas by placing ½ Tbs. of the peanut sauce on the pita – making sure to coat the bread evenly. Place 2 Tbs. of vegetable topping on each pizza. Place on grill (works best if using a grill basket) or grill pan and cook for approximately 3 minutes – until pita bread is crisp. Service immediately.