Ode to a Carrot
The carrot is a humble thing. Always there, waiting in the crisper drawer for a call to action. Easy to take for granted, for its procurable status in the market, and often overlooked for the sexier vegetables of spring, like fava beans and asparagus.
But the carrot is the quiet chameleon of the kitchen—delicate enough to mingle with fresh shelling peas but sturdy enough to stand up to meat and potatoes. Not to mention the most practical vehicle for dip delivery on many platters of crudité.
While carrots are sometimes regarded as an all-season staple, the petite early harvest varieties of spring have an especially sweet flavor, delicate skin and sublime range of color. The jewel-tone hues may beckon at the farmers market, but their virtue is more than skin deep. Red carrots are rich in lycopene, widely thought to help prevent heart disease.
Yellow carrots promote eye health and purple carrots are high in powerful antioxidants. Roasted rainbow carrots present a veritable platter of goodness.
As for the cooked vs. raw debate, different properties are highlighted in both states, so carrot soup is legit, as is pickling raw carrots for a crunchy salad. The sweet flavor of spring carrots is a perfect foil for spice and heat either way. And the sweetest carrots are the thin ones.
When you get home from the market with your carrots, cut the tops off before storing in the refrigerator. The greens suck the moisture and nutrients from the root, creating a limp carrot situation. While there are different methods for carrot storage, a gallon storage bag that seals is an ideal environment. To extend their life make sure there is not too much moisture on the carrots, but enjoy them as soon as possible ... they have earned star ingredient status on the plate this spring.