Known for their satisfying crunch, we often refer to carrots as the “ultimate” health food.
These root vegetables were first cultivated thousands of years ago in Europe and southwestern Asia. They looked and tasted quite different than the carrots we enjoy today. Dutch growers in the 16th and 17th centuries developed the orange variety we commonly consume.
Today, you can find carrots ranging in color from white, yellow, red and even purple. All offer a plethora of nutrients. California is the largest-producing carrot state in the United States.
Beyond being a great snack, use carrots in baked goods like cakes and muffins and savory dishes.
Carrots grow from a seed and mature in an average of 70 to 80 days with good sun exposure. When purchasing carrots at the store, look for ones that are firm and smooth with a bright color. Keep them in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel. This minimizes the amount of moisture they lose and allows them to stay fresh longer.
There are two broad classes of carrots produced based on geography—eastern carrots and western carrots.
Eastern carrots descend from the carrots grown in Persia (or modern day Iran and Afghanistan) in the 10th century or earlier. Present-day Eastern carrots come in yellow and purple varieties. They do not contain beta-carotene, which is typical in Western carrot varieties. Their unique purple color comes from anthocynanin pigments, which are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals. Today, Russia, Asian and Middle Eastern countries grow most eastern carrots. The two main varieties are the yellow eastern carrot and purple eastern carrot.
The Western carrot is the familiar modern day orange carrot. It emerged from the Netherlands in the 1600s. The orange color comes from the beta carotene. Western carrots also come in other colors, such as orange, white, red, yellow and even purple. Each of these pigments provide unique health benefits. Western carrot cultivators include chantenay carrots, danvers carrots, imperator carrots, and nantes carrots.
Carrots offer a great deal of nutrition with each crunchy bite.
One cup of chopped carrots contains a mere 50 calories, 12 gram of carbohydrates, 3 grams of sugar.
Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that supports good vision and aids the body with cell growth, immune function and reproduction.
With nearly 4 grams of fiber per serving, carrots support digestive health. They are great sources of some B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. The yellow, orange, red and purple colors come from the carotenoids found in carrots. There are many different carotenoids, each providing their own unique nutritional benefits so don’t think one color carrot is superior over any other!
In this month’s recipe, we roast the carrots with a touch of honey to heighten their sweet flavor and provide depth of flavor. Adding fresh herbs provides an additional flavor boost and contrasts with the sweetness of the carrots. This easy dish is the perfect side for any meal and is best served warm.
Honey Roasted Carrots
- 3lbcarrots, peeled and sliced on the bias to 1 1/2– inch long pieces (slice thicker portions into halfs). Thicker carrots are preferred. If thin reduce roasting time as needed.
- 3Tbspolive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2Tbspapple cider vinegar
- 2 1/2Tbspfresh parsley, chopped
- 1Tbspfresh thyme leaves
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Place carrots in a mound on a 17 by 12 - inch rimmed baking sheet.
- Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat.
- Spread into an even layer. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes, then remove from oven.
- In a small bowl stir together honey and apple cider vinegar.
- Drizzle carrots with honey mixture and toss well to evenly coat.
- Return to oven and roast about 10 to 20 minutes longer.
- Remove from oven; toss again and sprinkle with fresh parsley and thyme.
- Serve warm!
Sarah Yandow, CHWC, is a wellness health coach with Employee Wellness and Employer Health Management at the University of Vermont Medical Center.