Hello my dear readers,
It is because of their versatility, which makes them perfect to eat raw in salads, or cooked, as the basis of many preparations, or because they are cheap, easy to find and clean, I don’t know, but I do know that carrots are liked very much.
From where the carrots come from?
Carrot is a plant cultivated for a long time, originally from the Middle East and since ancient times also spread throughout the Mediterranean basin.
It derives from a spontaneous species, which was first domesticated in Afghanistan about 5000 years ago.
Known by the Greeks and Romans, it was long overshadowed by the success of turnips and parsnips, with which it was often confused, so as to make it difficult to read historical texts: difficult to understand which species they are talking about.
Its diffusion was slow, but in the Renaissance period it began to be widely appreciated, until the appearance of the sweet and crunchy orange carrot in the seventeenth century by the Dutch.
Why are carrots orange?
Because they have a strong presence of beta-carotene … everyone would say. Of course, it is true but from where this charming and original color comes from?
A color that, however, has changed over time: the orange that today appears ‘normal’ was obtained through the selections made in the seventeenth century by Dutch horticulturists, in honor of the royal family, the Orange, in fact, who had led the country in the war of independence against Spanish power.
The political choice of Dutch farmers was, from that moment on, appreciated in all over Europe, given that the new color was much more pleasing to the eye and was characterized by a sweeter and more delicate taste than the original version.
Originally the carrots were between purple and violet.
At one time they were found in white, purple, red, yellow or even black.
In Roman times, the carrot was not only purple but also white, never orange.
Today orange carrots have spread so much that they are the norm, while purple carrots have been recovered and are found as rarities.
So now you know the reason why carrots are orange.
But beyond the color, eating carrots is good.
Carrot is the vegetable with the richest health benefits, especially when we have it available fresh, perhaps harvested from our garden.
Carrots in history
Already the Romans used wild carrot seeds or domesticated seeds for medicinal purposes.
Historians and doctors of the time, such as Pliny the Elder and Galen, who in the second century after Christ, correctly distinguishes carrots from parsnips, explicitly mentions cultivation of carrots for medicinal purposes.
To get to be cultivated and used in the kitchen we have to wait for the Arabs who imported the carrots into Spain and then the genius cook of Catherine de’ Medici, made them food worthy of the lords’ tables.
Carrot is a biennial vegetable, that is to say, it lives two years, but it is in the first year that it produces the part that is normally eaten: the taproot.
During the second it produces a beautiful white inflorescence and later the seeds, which are used to perpetuate the species.
The family of Daucus carota, this is its scientific name, is that of the Apiaceae, also known as Umbrelliferae because of the umbrella-shaped inflorescence they develop.
It is a vegetable that is not particularly difficult to grow but that requires a soft and sandy soil, so it is not good in every garden.
Carrot seeds are a bit slow to germinate, and it is better to plant them directly in the field rather than putting them in seedbeds.
The right climate.
Carrots ask for a not too hot climate, because the root hardens if the temperature is very high. In general, however, they adapt to all climates, while they are much more demanding regarding the type of soil they encounter.
The soil is the real stumbling block for those who want to grow carrots. This vegetable prefers a soft and loose soil with dripping water. Stony or compact soils are not good because the roots cannot be properly developed. If the soil becomes hard, the carrots remain small or grow deformed and twisted. To have a more suitable soil, you can mix sand with the soil of your garden where you plan to cultivate carrots. This must be done at least two months before sowing.
How to sow carrots
The seed of the carrot is very small, you can facilitate sowing by mixing a little sand with the seeds or making strips of newspaper wet with a natural glue to be planted. There are also commercially available seed strips ready to be spread or sugared seeds, which are larger due to the coating.
The seed of carrots germinates at temperatures between 12 and 20 degrees, the carrot has a particularly slow germination, it can take up to 40 days to emerge. For this reason don’t worry if you do not see the young seedlings appear immediately as you will need a lot of patience. A cover with non-woven fabric helps to warm up and can speed up germination.
Soaking the seeds in warm water or chamomile a few hours before sowing can also be useful to speed up germination.
Thin out the seedlings.
If the plants are too crowded, the seedlings need to be reduced, eliminating the more stunted ones and leaving at most one seedling every 5 centimeters. The operation must be done when the carrot has the fourth leaf and the plant is 3-4 centimeters high.
Growing carrots in a pot?
Carrots can also grow in pots in your balcony. In this case, a medium-large container is required, a light soil (perhaps mixed with sand) and a lot of constancy in watering.
Carrots have a cultivation cycle of 75 – 130 days depending on the variety sown, for which it is generally harvested two months after sowing.
Usually the root is picked when its diameter exceeds one centimeter and is below two centimeters. If you leave them too much in the ground the heart hardens, which is the central part of color tending to white, in the old carrot it becomes woody and therefore unpleasant to eat.
The carrot harvest is done by eradicating the root, it is advisable the days before to soften the soil by watering often.
A carrot just picked from your own garden or your pot is super delicious and fresh!
But if you want to keep the carrots harvested, they must be left to dry in a ventilated and slightly humid environment, after which they stay well in a cool place. I remember my grandma used to keep them for months in the basement in a pot filled with sand, where was cool and dark.
Carrots in the kitchen
Carrot recipes: boiled or centrifuged?
As often happens, to take full advantage of the properties of carrots, they should be eaten raw, especially to keep vitamins intact, which is destroyed by heat.
In the summer season you can enjoy it together with other veggies in fresh and colorful salads.
But seems that beta-carotene is better assimilated also after a short cooking. Therefore, boiled or steamed carrots represent an excellent preparation, to be simply seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, a “good” fat. Otherwise, especially in winter, you can enjoy the carrot cream soup or a puree to combine with meat dishes.
The health advice is therefore to vary and alternate recipes with raw and cooked carrots.
But to not forget that carrots are also suitable for sweet preparations, such as carrot jam, or cakes, with chocolate, coconut and dried fruit, also highly appreciated in vegan and raw food or by celiacs.
Finally, the carrot centrifuges, or the juices, are perfect for enhancing the purifying action of this vegetable.
But the preparations with carrots do not end here, in fact you can make flan, sorbets and sauces!
Considering the precious properties of carrots, it is really worth indulging in the kitchen and increasing their consumption.
To help you, I recommend you keep a look at my next recipe 😉
The properties of the carrot are well known and widespread: few calories (45 kcal per 100 g of product) and many virtues.
Carrot is considered a tonic for the mind and it seems to positively affect the nervous system, being rich in iron and vitamins.
Their content is excellent, both for minerals, for vitamins and for the absence of cholesterol.
Because of the excellent content of minerals and vitamins, carrot is recommended in case of deficiencies of these substances, representing a valid natural aid.
Carrots, as we all know, are considered effective natural tanners since they are rich in beta-carotene, an element that stimulates melanin, a substance that gives color to the skin when we enjoy some sun and protects it from ultraviolet rays.
The beneficial action of beta-carotene:
- regulate intestinal functions, acting both as an antidiarrheal and as a laxative
- they are diuretic and purifying, which is why they help in case of cystitis, stones or urinary problems
- beta-carotene and vitamin C have antioxidant properties, useful in fighting free radicals and strengthening the immune system
- they are useful in case of stomach problems, colitis or liver problems
- carotenoids and fiber help lower cholesterol levels in the blood
- Vitamin A and beta-carotene are among the vitamins for the eyes, useful for vision, also improving night vision, and in case of cataracts.
Doctors today explain that the nourishing virtues of a plant are recognized by their color, and they recommend us to consume red, purple or orange food every day.
But the connection between colors and flavors was already suggested by Aristotle who, in De anima, outlines a complex system of correspondences between colors and fundamental flavors: white corresponds to sweet, sour to red.
In any case, for a long time it was not the flavor, but rather the color of the carrots that was valued in culinary practices.
The protective function of the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, throat and lungs is less well known: regular consumption of carrots helps in fact to fight pollutants and protect us from infections.
Carrot is also rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, and is an excellent gastro-protector.
Furthermore, the minerals and vitamin E present in carrots make them beneficial for the skeleton, for the muscles, but also for the skin, hair and nervous system.
From the seeds, which have aperitif and digestive properties, an oil is extracted used in the production of liqueurs and perfumes.
However, as a source of sugary reserves, it should not be forgotten that carrot is considered a caloric vegetable.
Do you like carrots? How do you like to eat them?
Thank you all for reading.
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts
Wish you a wonderful day!