Eat Smarter Special


5. About Carrots
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Kingdom | Plantae




Order | Apiales

Family | Apiaceae

Genus | Daucus

Species | D. carota

What are carrots?

Carrots are root vegetables that are typically known for their bright orange appearance, however they come in a variety of other colors. The actual root that is typically eaten is called a taproot. The greens of the plant can also be eaten. Modern carrots have been domesticated and grown to be larger and more palatable than wild carrots.

What kinds of carrots can you buy?

There are a large variety of carrots, known for their coloring and size. There are two broad carrot cultivars, and then they are divided into different varieties of carrots. Carrots are commonly classified by root size.

The Two Broad Cultivars of Carrots

Eastern Carrots Eastern carrots are thought to have been domesticated in Persia, probably during the 10th century. “Eastern” carrots are typically purple or yellow.
Western Carrots

The Western carrot originated in the Netherlands in the 17th century, where it was bred for its orange color. These carrots are typically classified by their size, into one of the four classifications:

  • Chantenay carrots - These carrots typically have a shorter root, and have a pale colored center. They are commonly used in processing.
  • Danvers carrots - These carrots have long roots, and typically produce a lot of green foliage.
  • Imperator carrots - This type of carrot produces a lot of green foliage, tends to have a very high sugar content, and is long and thin.
  • Nantes carrots - This type of carrot is very short and blunt, with minimal foliage, and is typically very sweet and brittle.

Carrots are different colors depending on their antioxidant content.

Orange Carrots These carrots are extremely high in beta-carotene, which give them their infamous orange color. Beta-carotene is great for heart health and is being researched for its role in cancer treatment and preventative health care.
Purple Carrots Purple carrots are extremely high in anthocyanins, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Black Carrots Black carrots are very rich in anthocyanins.
Red Carrots These carrots are high in lycopene, which is the same type of carotene that is found in tomatoes and gives them their red hue. Lycopene is important for heart health.
White Carrots White carrots do not have a pigment, but contain many other phytonutrients. They were bred for their tocopherol, or Vitamin E, content.
Yellow Carrots  Yellow carrots are high in lutein and xanthophylls, which are very important for eye health. Xanthophylls specifically give yellow carrots their golden hue.

How do I choose the best “quality” carrots?

  • Depending on what type of carrots you want to buy, you may need to have different standards. Juice carrots, also called horse carrots, are typically sold in large qualities. Their appearance may not matter as much, but you might still want to consider if they are organic or not.
  • When purchasing carrots, choose carrots that have smooth shapes and are not marked by dents and holes.
  • If you want sweeter carrots buy young carrots. Young carrots are thin and slim.
  • The best shape of carrot to buy for cooking is a medium sized long carrot. Larger and thicker carrots may be difficult to cut.
  • Try to buy organic carrots. Carrots made it onto the Dirty Dozen list, meaning that even after one rinse they still can have pesticides on them. The taste might not change, but what you are consuming will.
  • The Dirty Dozen is decided by an environmental group, EWG, that is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization which tests products and foods for their environmental standards.
  • What are “organic” carrots?

Organic carrots includes any carrot grown not using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, ionizing radiation, and are not genetically modified. In the United States a way to determine if carrots are organic is if it has a green USDA organic sticker or labeling.

How do you store carrots? How long do they store for?

  • When storing carrots in your refrigerator, cut off the carrot greens. The greens will slowly take nutrients from the root in order to grow. The best way to store carrots is in a covered container in fresh water. The water bath will keep the carrots fresh for a long period of time, but make sure you change the water from time to time.
  • Fresh, whole carrots will typically last stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 weeks.
  • Baby carrots will typically last stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.
  • Carrots can be frozen for storage to last longer. We recommend blanching the carrots first to preserve them the best, but this step isn’t necessary.