Congratulations, you're visiting the King of Vegetables. Now, you don't have to bow or curtsy – we like informality in the Carrot Kingdom. Why are we King of Vegetables? Well, we're one of the most widely eaten foods on the Planet and everyone likes us especially Bugs Bunny – and vegetarians. Just think about it, we're used in just about every savoury dish you eat and quite a few sweet ones too – we're in soups, casseroles, stir-fries, risottos, pasta dishes, stews, roasts and even cakes! We were probably your very first solid food and usually go into your daily lunch boxes and we make a wonderful juice too.
We're grown for our taproots which form below the surface. Above ground we have ferny leaves which grow from the top or crown of our root. Most of us have long, tapering orange-red roots, 20-28cm long and 3-5cm wide, shaped like an arrowhead. Some varieties are more rounded and shaped like a top whilst others are harvested when very young and small – they're sold in bunches.
We're available all year round but at our best value from March to August.
We're small and sweet, about 5-8cm long, and are sold in bunches with our green leaves still attached. We also come in a round, golf ball-sized version, which are very decorative and great for cooking. We're grown in most states with the main production in Victoria and New South Wales.
We're long and tapered, with a pointed growing tip, smooth skin and good external and internal colour. We have a crisp, deep flavour with a very red to orange flesh that is great for juicing.
We have a moderate taper with a cylindrical shape and a round growing tip.
We're similar to Nantes with a moderate taper and are more cigar shaped.
Kuroda or Koyo
We're a new variety, shorter than standard carrots, with a wide shoulder that tapers to a rounded tip. Our skin finish is very smooth and our colour is very attractive. We have a high sugar content and a deep orange colour. This means we are sweeter than other carrots and have a high beta carotene concentration (viitamin A). We are excellent raw and are very juicy.
We need deep, sandy soil, plenty of water and a temperate or cool climate. If we're grown in soil that has a lot of animal manure it will cause us to fork and become hairy. Sown from seeds we're planted in rows, not too deeply, and kept moist.
We take about 4-7 days to germinate and our first shoots will emerge 6-15 days after planting. We're biennial (plants that flower, fruit, then die in the second year) requiring two growing seasons to flower. Our root grows in one season, usually over 1 to 2 months and is then ready to harvest. This means that we can be stored in the ground over winter until you need us.
When immature we have a pale white/yellow appearance that gradually changes to a deep orange colour as we mature. We're harvested by a machine which gently pulls us out of the ground by our fern-like leaves. The machine then cuts the top section of our leaves off and we're loaded into large bins ready to be washed, graded, packed and sent to the markets. We're generally not sold with our tops because loss of water through our leaves can cause us to shrivel up.
To pick the best of us select bright-coloured, firm, well-shaped roots. When our tops are still attached, look for fresh, green leaves. Avoid any of us that are dry, wilted, shrivelled, soft or split.
Refrigerate us in a plastic bag or store in the vegetable crisper.
It's said that we originated from wild roots that grew in Afghanistan which were red, black or purple in colour. It's also thought that our ancestor was a small, tough, pale-fleshed taprooted plant which grew in the Near East and Middle Asia. Whatever the truth, we're definitely an ancient plant. Our seed has been found in lake dwellings in central Switzerland dated at 2000 to 3000 BC. We were probably used for both food and medicinal purposes in the beginning.
Little was written about us until the 16th century, when it was noted that yellow and purple varieties were eaten in Europe. In the 17th century an orange coloured carrot was developed in Holland and further breeding occurred throughout the 18th century. We are derived from these 18th century varieties. We first came to Australia in 1788 with the First Fleet and convicts planted ‘Long Orange' carrots on Norfolk Island just two weeks after their arrival and gathered in their first harvest in October of that year. Along with our friends the cabbages, we became an important food for the colonists.
We're best washed, removing top and tail and eaten raw, skin and all. Carrot sticks are great for school snacks, with dips, in salads, or pureed as a healthy fresh drink.
Stir-fry, boil, steam, microwave, about 4-8 minutes, depending on the size and quantity. Serve as a vegetable, in casseroles, soups, cakes, biscuits, pikelets, scones or sauces. Baby carrots are best left whole, cooked 3-5 minutes.
Here are a few quick and easy ideas that you may like to try:
Carrot And Potato Mash
Add equal quantities of cooked mashed carrot and potato with a little butter, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Pipe onto greased baking tray into 5cm swirls, top with grated cheese and grill until browned.
Carrot And Sultana Packages
Grate 6 medium carrots and mix with 1/3 cup each chopped shallots, sultanas and parmesan cheese, 250g cottage cheese and 1 beaten egg. Brush 8 sheets of filo pastry with melted butter and cut in half. Put 2 sheets together with a spoonful of mixture in the centre of each and fold like a parcel. Brush with butter, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake in moderate oven 20 minutes until browned.
Carrot And Currant Salad
Grate 5 medium carrots and mix with 1 cup desiccated coconut and 1/2 cup currants. Stir in French dressing and serve with thinly sliced green shallots.
Carrot And Cashew Soup
Saute 1 sliced medium onion and 450g sliced carrots. Cook over low heat with lid on, 8 minutes. Puree with 1/2 cup chicken stock. Return to pan and stir in 1 grated green apple, with skin on, 2 tablespoons tomato puree and 3 1/2 cups chicken stock. Heat through and stir in 1/3 cup chopped cashews. Serve with spoonful of yoghurt and chopped thyme.