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A root vegetable, originally carrots weren’t orange at all, but grew wild in shades of black, white, red and purple. Carrots were cultivated in ancient Iran and Afghanistan over 5000 years ago, and now there are over 100 varieties of carrots. Some of the more popular and colorful varieties include gorgeous Atomic Red, Chantenay Red and Cosmic Purple. The iconic orange carrots were developed by the Dutch as a tribute to William of Orange in the 1600s, in recognition of his role in leading the Dutch Revolt, quickly replacing the more colorful varieties. Popular in Europe, but relatively unknown in the US, soldiers returning home from World War I added these to their kitchen table, and they quickly became a staple in most homes.
Composed mostly of water, carrots have a high content of sugar and have high levels of vitamin A and beta-carotene. An excellent source of fiber, potassium, calcium, folate, magnesium, vitamins B-6, C and K and antioxidants, this colorful vegetable can repair skin, cure eye diseases, treat worms, strengthen bones, improve liver function and digestion, regulate blood pressure and can also be used as an antiseptic mouthwash. Purple carrots contain even more antioxidants than the more well known orange varieties, and add a vibrant touch to many recipes.
Delicious as a side dish with pecans and cinnamon, carrots can be juiced, boiled, sauteed, roasted, used in soups, mixed with ginger for smoothies, blended with other vegetables to add sweetness, and are often served raw as a quick snack or with Buffalo wings, or tossed into salads.
A winter vegetable, carrots grow best in cooler temperatures in early spring and late fall, ranging from 55 F. to 75 F. In the spring, plant your St. Clare Heirloom carrot seeds around two weeks before the last frost date, and in the fall plant them 10 to 12 weeks before your predicted first fall frost.
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