Cool, crisp and crunchy, I love spring carrots straight from the garden, the soil freshly rinsed off and skins left unpeeled. Pure deliciousness. A sweet treat created to boost energy and strengthen my body. I ate lots of carrots growing up. It was one of the few vegetables I actually enjoyed. Back then, I ate them neat and tidy… peeled, sliced into uniform strips, and served with my PB&J sandwich. (I ate a lot of PB&J as a kid.) I also liked it when each slender carrot was carefully sliced into cute little circles, then added to a crisp lettuce salad. (No dressing, please.) The only way I didn’t care for them was when they were endlessly simmered alongside pot roast and potatoes. Then their squishy, little orange bodies gave me the heebie-jeebies. Yuck. (I’m over it now. No worries. 🙂 ) Lately, carrots are finding their way to my breakfast table, their natural nutrients and sweetness gearing me up for my morning and empowering me throughout the day.
The Power of Carrots
Carrots, Daucus carota, are cousins of the wildflower Queen Anne’s lace and belong to the Umbellifierae plant family. Their flowers, called umbels, resemble an opened umbrella with its canopy stretched out, supported by a series of spokes arranged in a circle. When in blossom, each tiny flower opens, creating a lovely floral lace. Not only are Umbelliferaes a beautiful flowering family of plants, many of them are very tasty! Other members include angelica, anise, caraway, celery, chervil, cilantro/coriander, dill, fennel, lovage and parsley. Carrots are considered a minor herb and like many other herbs, can be used to add distinct flavors and nutrients to your favorite foods.
As a kid, Mom always said, “Eat your carrots. They’re good for your eyes!” Many people still equate carrots with vision health. While it’s true they can assist vision strength in certain situations, the better explanation is that the beta-carotene, the red-orange pigment, is actually a precursor to vitamin A. Our bodies convert the b-carotene into vitamin A and therein lies the nutrient power of a simple carrot. Vitamin A is needed for bone and teeth development. It helps form the connective tissues that make up our skeleton. Additionally, vitamin A is also essential to the development of healthy epithelial cells. These hardworking cells are found in your skin as well as the mucous membranes of your digestive, respiratory and reproductive tracts. You need your vitamin A! Yes, eat your carrots!
Carrots have other secret powers. They are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants act as free radical scavengers throughout your body, tracking down and blocking the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines. Carrots are also solid sources of potassium, phosphorus, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin C.
Sweeten Your Style Naturally
Is it any wonder carrots have found their way into my breakfast? Who wouldn’t want to start their day with all that nutritional power backing them up? It’s simple to add carrots into your morning routine. You can adapt your favorite muffin recipe by adding 2 cups of shredded carrots. I like chopping up a few pecans and sprinkling them over the top of the muffin. Raisins are always a good addition. You might also try currants or small wild blueberries for a taste twist. I’m all in”on getting the most flavor and nutrition from my carrots. If I don’t have garden carrots available, I head to my co-op and purchase fresh organic carrots. What a difference from plastic bagged supermarket carrots. And, while I’m not selling this, if you feel unsure about adapting your own muffin recipe, my go-to muffin recipe book is Camilla Saulsbury, 750 Best Muffin Recipes. I’ve had my copy for many years. She has a carrot/currant muffin recipe that is outstanding. I believe the book is still available through Amazon.
Other delicious and nutritious ways of introducing carrots into your morning are carrot waffles and ebelskivers, You can forget the sticky sweet syrup. These are good warm with just a bit of butter. (Oh, did you notice from the photo that I like butter at breakfast? Lol.)
Simple Steps to Growing Carrots
Before I go, if you’ve never grown carrots, this is an awesome season to start. It’s not too late. The very first time I grew carrots I started with sweet little Parisian Market carrots in a container. It worked great. I’ve also grown carrots in my keyhole. You can do it, but lesson learned, carrots aren’t crazy about fresh compost. They’ll grow. But they get a little scary looking….they come out forked and a bit hairy! They’re still edible. Actually, they’re quite delicious. But, you have to serve them to someone with a good sense of food humor. 🙂 If you’re going to grow them in a keyhole, I suggest a spring planting before you freshen it up with any new compost.
I digress, back to growing normal looking carrots. This season, I’m growing carrots in a container again. I’m using ‘Short Stuff’ Organic Chantenay Carrot seeds by Renee’s Garden. They’re shorter 4″ roots are perfect in this setting. They’ll be great picked fresh or for any other baked/roasted purpose I may have. I planted them in a container with a 19″ diameter and 14″ depth, using ordinary potting soil that I moistened. I then sprinkled the seeds on the potting soil leaving about 3/4″ between seeds and covered the seeds with the a scant 1/4′ of soil. I misted the seeds and left the container in my garage near a sunny window. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you plant tiny seeds in the spring you have to protect them from spring’s torrential rainstorms…otherwise, you just end up needing to repeat your efforts. I’ve put my container outside in a protected area. I’ve also put plastic over the top. I’ve tried several different methods. My garage-by-the-window technique works beautifully for me. I’m sure you’ll discover what works great for you. Just make sure your seeds stay moistened. Other varieties that work well in containers are Scarlet Nantes, and the heirloom, Touchon. If you’re looking for a bite size carrot, AAS winner, Thumbalina, is a great choice.
You can use this same method and plant outdoors in a raised bed. I think spring planting works best if your beds are covered with a glass top. That protects them from the rain. Be sure to vent the bed should the sun come out and temps soar.
If you’re looking for a great book on spring planting, I highly recommend The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by friend and fellow NGBPlantnerd, Nikki Jabbour. I love her books. She has a new book out called, Veggie Garden Remix. I haven’t seen a copy yet, but it promises to be good. I’ll let you know when I get my hands one.
Happy growing everyone! It’s Spring!
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