Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Dieting is the worst thing that ever happened to carrots.
Do you ever read some of those “eat this not that” articles?
Instead of a Danish, have an apple.
Um. Hello? Did I miss something on the food pyramid, or is an apple NOTHING like a Danish?
Apples at least have the advantage of going nicely into a pie, or mashing into a sauce, so they get forgiven.
But carrots. Poor, maligned carrots.
Instead of potato chips, eat carrots!
Nope, still not an equivalent. Whoever writes these things has never struggled with an extra ounce of weight in their lives.
Whoever writes these things has never popped open a can of Pringles and eaten the entire thing in a single sitting then licked the salt off their fingers at the end. That’s engineering genius in a can, maybe not strictly food, but there’s a reason you can’t stop eating them and why carrots don’t count as a substitute.
But carrots, all by themselves, not as a diet device or a something-else-substitute, are pretty amazing.
I’ve previously mentioned my love affair with Farmers Market carrots, and I learned something today about why. The place where I buy them from grows a particular variety called Nantes. It’s an heirloom from France, which right there are two words that ring so beautifully together.
Heirloom varieties of anything – ie: varieties that overproduction and factory farming have not ruined – are little bites of perfection.
These carrots max out somewhere around seven inches and they are sweeter and crunchier than most carrots you’re probably used to.
And I learned that you don’t even have to peel them. Considering the ones I get can be two inches long, that’s good news.
Did you know that baby carrots aren’t a thing? They are a marketing campaign. Some farmer decided he was tired of throwing out damaged or broken carrots so he whittled them down to clean, small bites and a dieting phenomenon was born. Don’t get me wrong, it was a brilliant idea. But baby carrots are just broken carrots made pretty again.
Actual baby carrots, as in those harvested while they are still small, are called… carrots.
Another thing about Nantes carrots is that they have almost no core. So it’s just crunchy carrot goodness in every bite, none of that hard kinda-bitter stuff that sometimes makes you think you cracked a tooth after biting through it.
And I know where they come from. They didn’t get to my plate by boat or train or semi truck. They got there because someone a couple towns over grew them, crated them into the trunk of his car, and drove them over to the Farmers Market where one of his three tiny kids ring up your order on an iPad like a magician doing a card trick. I don’t know how old they are but I’m guessing they range around seven to ten years old. They take their job very seriously.
This particular farm didn’t even exist until 2009, and only then as a garden. For the next six years they expanded into livestock as well as produce, and then their young daughter got diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
Remember my last post about work, and how it sort of trumps everything but death? This family was working nonstop crazy to keep their farm going, but everything stopped when they found out about their daughter.
I won’t keep you in suspense, their daughter went into remission and is doing well. And in a double effort to both eat more plants to keep their daughter healthy, and spend more time with each other, they switched to farming produce only. They specialize in leafy greens, with bonuses like scallions and fairy eggplant and carrots.
How can you not love carrots that come with a story like that?
Carrots are poetry in orange.
I’ve bought other varieties from other people.
Mostly I buy the rainbow ones because… do I really have to tell you why? Rainbow? Carrots? What is prettier on a plate than all the colors? Orange and white and purple and yellow and red. Those taste like regular carrots, but they are even more delicious to your eyes.
Did you know that purple carrots are actually yellow or orange inside? Now that’s just showing off.
If people would stop telling you to eat them instead of chips and just… eat them… the world would be much improved.
Here’s something I didn’t know about carrots. They have a lot of beta carotene, but it’s only really accessible after they are cooked. That is not going to stop me from eating them raw, but I do love a good roasted carrot. They’re also good in cake and muffins, which might possibly negate their health benefits, but they’re still delicious.
I have a recipe for a ginger carrot dressing that is to die for, the kind you get at a good Japanese restaurant.
Carrot and butternut squash soup for lunch is a reason to get up in the morning.
And carrots are ideal for delivering a vast array of other delicious things to your mouth, like hummus or sunflower butter or spinach dip.
And! And! Are you sitting down? In my enthusiasm over carrots, I learned two life-changing things.
Number one, which should really not surprise either of us, there is carrot honey. I mean, if there is radish honey, why not carrot? All I know is I have to get my hands on this now.
Number two, and this is where sitting down will be of particular help, because then you can jump up for joy, there is a distillery in Pennsylvania that makes a special craft spirit distilled from carrots! This is not just some carrot-infused alcohol. This is the real made-from-carrots deal. It apparently tastes like a carrot. That will get you drunk.
I also have had mead made from carrot blossoms from my favorite meadery in Point Reyes. It, while delicious, does not taste like carrots. But it’s cool to know it comes from them.
I have eaten enough carrots today to turn orange (a real thing that can happen if you’re particularly unlucky) and never once thought they were a substitute for potato chips. They are a marvel unto themselves, a shape and color and texture all their own, a crunch and taste that goes just as well with breakfast as it does with dessert.
Three cheers for the carrot! I toast it with carrot flavored spirits. Now I am going to try making those oat bran muffins again, except this time… with carrots.
Photo: Nantes carrots fresh from the farm. Or what’s left of them. In the background, some dried wildflowers from the Point Reyes meadery.