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Chameleon Carrots!

July 25, 2013
carrots assortment

photo credit: Isabel Branstrom

Have you ever seen a purple carrot? How about red? Actually, carrots come in a variety of colors other than orange: black, white, red, purple, and yellow. Each of these different colored carrot varieties has different vitamins and nutrients that are essential for a balanced diet. Because carrots contain more sugar than most other vegetables, kids love eating them raw, grilled, sautéed, and dipped in dressing.

Carrots are a root vegetable, meaning the part of the plant that we eat is the root. The carrot taproot has evolved into many different shapes, lengths and colors.  Though yellow and purple carrots are native to Afghanistan, they still grow well in the northeastern United States.  For container gardening, consider planting short, round carrots because they grow well close together and mature quickly (12 weeks).

Wild carrots are hiding in plain sight! Wild carrot, better known as Queen Anne’s Lace is a close relative to the common carrot. They have edible flowers, leaves, and roots that taste just like a regular carrot root, although they should be eaten when young; older ones quickly get tough.

carrot in groundHarvest carrots when the tops are peeking out of the soil. A trowel may be necessary to get long-rooted carrots out of the ground. It is wise to cut the tops of the carrot off soon after harvesting. If left attached, the leaves will continue to use the root’s nutrients, making the carrot that you eat less sweet and nutritious.

The secret to getting bold carrot taste and nutrients is to leave the skin on. Scrub, don’t peel. Carrots are packed with vitamins A, B, C, and E, as well as trace minerals calcium, manganese, and phosphorus, just to name a few. They are one of the best sources for  carotene, which is converted into vitamin A to help maintain low cholesterol and heart health.

It is fortunate that the healthiest carrot dish is also the easiest to prepare: raw carrots! Adding hummus, peanut butter, or dip to a plate of carrots makes kids more inclined to try it.  Microwaving carrots in a covered bowl (be sure to add a bit of water) is the best cooking method for retaining vitamins and minerals. Below is a quick and easy recipe for a carrot desert that kids love and can help to prepare!

carrot jelloOrange, Carrot, and Pineapple Jello Salad:

2 packages orange jello

1cup grated carrot

1 cup hot water

1 cup cold water

1 cup crushed pineapple

Dissolve jello in hot water, according to the directions on the box. Stir in cold water, carrots, and pineapple. Set bowl in refrigerator to chill. Serve in 3-4 hours.

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