Even before cultivation, wild carrots were used centuries ago for medicinal purposes. As a pre-cursor for vitamin A, beta carotene, the yellow-orange pigment found in orange carrots is a powerful phytonutrient. In most of the south you can have both fall and spring plantings. Although you can grow carrots in hot climates they are not as sweet as when grown in cool weather. Carrots planted in the fall will give you plenty through the winter months. Carrots in multi-colors add even more phytonutrients found in their varied pigments. You can also use the green carrot tops in a variety of recipes.

Peak Time: January to April but available all year           

Average Price: $1.19 for a 1 lb. bag; $2.09 bunch with tops left on

Tips for Selection and Storage: Choose firm, smooth carrots with a deep orange color. Now, you can find rainbow carrots of red, purple, white, yellow, and of course, orange. These colorful carrots are grown from wild seeds and have no GMOs. Avoid shrivel, cracks, greenish coloring, or sprouting in the roots. The freshest carrots still have their tops. Look for fresh-looking greens attached. Medium and smaller size carrots are best. Very small, young carrots sometimes called finger carrots, are harvested early for tenderness and flavor.

If carrots are garden fresh, trim green tops about two inches above the root before storing to prevent loss of moisture and nutrients. Store carrots unwashed, wrap tightly in plastic or in a baggie in the refrigerator. Place the greens in a glass of water in the refrigerator until use.

Tips for Preparation: Wash and scrub carrots with a vegetable brush under running water and dry well. Medium to small carrots and those with tops need not be peeled. Carrots may be roasted, steamed, baked, stir-fried, or pureed. Carrots casseroles, soups, and stews are favorites. Carrots mix well with other vegetables and with ingredients such as ginger, nutmeg, orange, parsley, and dill. Don’t forget carrot cake, carrot bread, or carrot cookies when baking! Rinse carrot tops and dry between paper towels. Use carrot tops to make a variety of recipes like relishes or sauces similar to those with parsley or cilantro like gremolata (an Italian relish usually with parsley), pesto, and chimichurri. Carrots can also be used to make carrot fritters, added to veggie burgers, added to salad dressings, dipped in hummus, and as an ingredient in soups, stews, and mirepoix, or sautéed with other greens.

Nutritional Highlights:  Orange carrots are an excellent source of several carotenoids which convert to vitamin A in the body. These carotenes are six times better absorbed when the carrots are cooked. Carrots are good sources of vitamins K, biotin, B6, and dietary fiber as well as potassium. In addition to the carotene in carrots, other important phytochemicals are polyacetylenes, lutein in orange and yellow carrots, lycopene in red and purple carrots, and anthocyanins in the darkest colored orange, red, and purple carrots. Green carrot tops contain some beta carotene, vitamin C, much more vitamin K than the root, and are very rich in potassium, calcium, and dietary fiber like all greens. This mix of nutrients and phytonutrients from both the root and greens work as an antioxidant complex, benefiting the immune system, digestion, bone density, vision and regulating blood pressure – nutrient density at its best.

For a recipe for roasted carrots, click here.