Foods You Thought You Knew

Friday, November 13, 2009

Posted by Hilda

So I think I’m probably going to be known as the baby-lady around here, but as many of you know, it does take over your life doesn’t it... but in a very good way.
Today we are going to talk about carrots. That’s right, you heard--err, read me correctly, carrots. Why are we going to talk about carrots? Because I use them a lot in my baby’s food and because they’re quite interesting in more ways than you’d think.

I guess there could have been many other vegetables I could have written about for this post but I picked carrots because -WARNING: I’m about to admit something I probably shouldn’t here so get ready- I only just discovered- NO not carrots silly, of course I’ve known carrots forever, who hasn’t- rainbow carrots. I’ve only just discovered rainbow carrots. I didn’t actually know there were other colors of carrots than orange, (did you?) so imagine my surprise when my husband brought home these beautiful carrots in shades of purple and greenish-yellow and told me there even were red carrots out there somewhere.
Upon doing a little bit of research I discovered that carrots, in fact, were not orange to begin with. That seems odd doesn’t it? It seems like no actually they always were orange and then some guy with too much time and a lot of carrot seeds laying around started making hybrids and coming up with cool funkedelic colors, but it just seems that way, that’s not really what happened.
In reality, it’s not exactly clear what the chronology of the modern carrot is other than, from evidence found in archaeological digs, some form of carrot, as in plants from the carrot family, existed back in the Eocene period (55 to 34 million years ago). After that, there is no actual written record of their use either for food or medicinal purposes until the Greeks and Romans, although the domesticated version of carrots (oh yes, I’ll tell you about that in a minute) are believed to date back to approximately 5000 B.C. in Afghanistan.
So, to the issue of wild vs. domesticated carrots. When I first read that there were wild carrots and that the carrots we take for granted as simply being carrots are the hybridized and domesticated descendants of "wild" ones, I imagined a Mr. Potato Head version of a carrot wearing a loincloth and carrying a sharpened stalk of celery for a spear. It turns out that you probably know wild carrots by another name; they are commonly known as Queen Anne's Lace and are mostly considered to be a weed, albeit a pretty one; the root is tough, pale (most often white), bitter and quite small. Presumably, over thousands of years and many combinations, the modern, domesticated carrot evolved partially from the wild carrot, but attempts to create domesticated edible carrots -such as we know them- purely from wild carrots have failed, so the belief that domesticated carrots come entirely from wild ones is inaccurate.
The first domesticated carrots that I mentioned above were purple and sometimes yellow. Through time and cross-cultivation, other colors appeared, first red, then white, then orange which became the most common form of carrot particularly in the West. They were brought to Europe by the Arabs in the 10th century, at which time the orange version did not yet exist, and it is thought that Western Europeans eventually developed the common orange-colored carrot some time around the 16th century.

Now to the nutritive properties of carrots, which is really why you might still be reading this post:
Carrots are phenomenally nutritious. They contain the most beta-carotene (unsurprisingly and that which gives carrots their orange color) of any fruit or vegetable which is converted to vitamin A by the body. They also are a source of vitamins B6 and C, and a pectin fibre known as calcium pectate which may have the ability to lower cholesterol. Carrots are loaded with potassium, thiamin, folic acid, and magnesium and when cooked also contain copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus and sulphur. The lesson here being that an apple a day is all well and good, but maybe you should consider eating some more of those carrots you have laying around. It's as easy as washing and peeling one. If you happen to get a bunch of carrots with their greens, those contain vitamin K which is not present in carrots themselves, so you might want to use those as well. It's all good.

I used to hate cooked carrots when I was little, but realized in retrospect that that was only because my mother didn't cook them and the only cooked ones I had were often boiled to death and lacking any flavor. I've always loved them raw however, and now like them cooked as well. I've been making all of the carrots pictured above for my little noodle and she loves them, no matter the color or the manner in which they are cooked. It is thanks to her that I've discovered all of these things about carrots, and that I continue to discover things every day about foods I eat.
Have you learned anything about foods you thought you knew from your children?

This post was written by Hilda

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having grown up in India, I always knew of the red ones - i still like them more than the orange ones we get here, or at least i think so, who knows what things are like after so many years of being away from home. And the black ones are used to make 'Kanji', one drink I miss so much. Which is basically fermented black carrots in water with salt and ground black mustard seeds which is kept in the sun untill the kanji is ready to eat and drink. Delicious! I have seen the green ones in the farmers market too. Haven't tried them yet though.

PG said...
November 14, 2009 at 5:39:00 PM GMT+1  

I've never seen carrots in all these colors. Intersting! Thanks for sharing.


November 16, 2009 at 12:04:00 AM GMT+1  

Where I live, there are 3 varieties of carrots that I see... orange, red and purple.

I also didn't like cooked carrots earlier simply because my mom didn't cook them. :) Now I do.

Raaga said...
November 16, 2009 at 6:22:00 AM GMT+1  

Last week me and my husband went to IKEA and had steammed vegetables. I liked the color combination, it was yellow and orange. I could recognize the orange (obviously carrots) but the yellow thing was so alien to me. My husband said, they are yellow carrots, I laughed at him and said " Carrots are always orange beacuse the name carrots comes from carotene I think". Now I realized that I am completely wrong. Good to know all about carrots.

Unknown said...
November 21, 2009 at 4:33:00 AM GMT+1  

Wow, now that was great! First of all, I just stumbled upon purple carrots at my local Primeur - fruit & veg sellers - and so want to cook with them. And Queen Anne's Lace? I have learned so much here - and you are so funny in the telling. Fab post! Now a recipe!!!

My grandma used to say : "Forget the apple a day, eat a banana." Now I can add a carrot to that!

Jamie said...
December 9, 2009 at 7:05:00 PM GMT+1  

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