Chow Town

Carrots provide outstanding nutritional, medicinal values

May is National Vision month and what do we think of when we think of improving our eyesight? Carrots.

My neighbor already has carrots he has eaten from his garden. (Hint of envy.)

The carrot is an edible root vegetable which originated from Asia and is part of the parsley family.

It gains high respect in Western countries as it has been regarded as the best dish for outstanding nutritional and medicinal values. Even the Dutch has listed carrot as one of their national dishes.

Carrots, Daucus carota, need not be orange. As a matter of fact, the orange carrot is a relative newcomer on the scene. Carrots were originally either purple or white. Selection and hybridization in the 16th Century brought us the vitamin-packed orange carrot we know today.

Carrots are wonderful nutritionally to provide our body the essential enzymes, vitamins and minerals it needs. For each 100 gram, the carrot has 7.6 gram of carbohydrate, 0.6 gram of protein, 0.3 gram of fat, 30 milligram of calcium and 0.6 milligram of iron. Also, it is a good source of fiber, B, C and K vitamins. Not to mention potassium and thiamine.

Studies have shown that carrots provide us the highest amount of beta-carotene among the list of vegetables we consume everyday.

Beta Carotene is stored in the body and converted to vitamin A on an “as-needed” basis, so there is not a risk of Vitamin A toxicity to counter the health benefits of carrots in the diet.

Excessive consumption of beta-carotene or carrots can lead to a condition call “carotenosis,” characterized by an orange tint to the skin. Otherwise, the condition is not dangerous.

How well I remember this when the doctor told me the reason my son had bright orange cheeks when he was a baby was from feeding him too much pureed carrots. He loved to eat it so I kept feeding him more and more.

As carrots are a fat-soluble substance, its nutrition is absorbed better with the presence of oil, so anytime you can add a drop or two of olive oil to cooked carrots or dip a raw carrot in olive oil will help with the nutrition absorption.

So how should we store these carrots?

First carrots should be firm (not limp), straight with a uniform taper, little residual “hairiness” from lateral roots, no green shoulders or green core from exposure to sunlight during the growth phase and low bitterness.

Our common household storage conditions rarely achieve the optimum temperature for long term storage to prevent decay, sprouting and wilting. The optimum temperature is 32 degrees. Mature carrots can be stored with minimal decay for 3 to 5 months at this temperature.

With the invention of the refrigerator, people have grown rather careless about storing their foodstuff. It’s a common assumption that people have that once the food goes inside the fridge, it’s safely stored for a long, long time. Plus we put all sorts of vegetables and fruits in the same bin in the refrigerator.

Do you ever wonder why the carrots were so sweet when you first bought them then after a couple of weeks they are getting a little bitter.

Exposure to ethylene gas will induce the development of the bitter flavor. Exposure to as little as 0.5 ppm of ethylene gas will result in perceptible bitter flavor within 2 weeks.

I know I’ve forgotten about the lone apple in the back of the bin and have been in a hurry to get the carrots in the fridge, ripped the bag open to get one out, threw the bag in the bin and boom I started not only the bitter process but the decay and didn’t even know it.

To properly store carrots you should wash them, put them in a plastic container and cover them with cold water. Change the water about every four days and they should keep for 2 weeks easily.

Here is a great recipe I’ve used off the Food Network:

Carrot Salad Makes 6 servings 1/4 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1 bag (10 ounces) shredded carrots 1/2 cup dried cranberries 1 small red onion, chopped 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

To prepare: Combine olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, mustard, salt and sugar in small bowl. Combine carrots, cranberries, onion and almonds in large bowl. Add dressing. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

Source: Food Network Donna Cook is the owner of Rabbit Creek Gourmet Foods in Louisburg, Kan. She is also a Master Gardener, Master Food Volunteer and on the board of directors of the Home Baking Association.