Not Just Rabbit Food

— Written By Barbara Linder and last updated by Dawn Stone
 Attribution: Sajetpa at ml.wikipedia

Attribution: Sajetpa at ml.wikipedia

Finally! The days are longer and the weather is beginning to warm up! Spring is right around the corner. It is the time of year when one starts to think of all of the young fresh vegetables that will be available in the coming weeks to welcome the flowers as they begin to bloom, and the greening of the trees and fields. I love spring, and I love carrots!

The carrot is a member of the parsley family. Their leafy green tops have a similar flavor profile as that of parsley, and can be used in the same way. The green leafy tops grow above the ground, while the taproot (what we associate with being the ‘carrot’) grows below ground.

Carrots originated over 5000 years ago in the Middle East. However, the plant grew during Roman times as purple or white, not the orange that we associate with the vegetable today. It was not until the 16th century that Dutch farmers bred the vegetable to grow in the color of the ruling House of Orange. Still today, orange is the color that represents the Dutch royal family.

Carrots are one of the most nutritious vegetables available in North Carolina. Rich in beta-carotene and vitamin-A, carrots are responsible for helping us keep our eyesight sharp. Carrots are low in calories, fat free, cholesterol free, and high in fiber.

Available year round in the United States, and in both spring and fall in North Carolina, carrots lend themselves to Easter and spring dishes. Carrots can be enjoyed in soups, stews, salads, cakes, and breads, or prepared in a variety of ways including steamed, sautéed, roasted, grilled, or raw. Additionally, carrots do not lose their nutritional qualities when cooked like some other vegetables. Also, their sweetness is enhanced when heat is applied!

Today, carrots can be found in a variety of colors, from orange to yellow to purple. Baby carrots are actually pieces of larger carrots that were once parts of larger carrots that have simply been peeled, trimmed, cut and packaged as baby carrots.

Whether you are looking for the perfect snack or a wonderful accompaniment to tomorrow night’s dinner, carrots are sweet vegetables that will be a satisfying spring addition.