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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trick of the Mind? No; Carrots aren't always Orange! Recipe

My four year old daughter sings a song she learned in school about the color orange - it's really about associating orange items with the actual color and then learning how to spell the word. She's mastered all the color songs perfectly. But when she sings the orange song I playfully tease her as she sings, "carrots are always orange" and tell her that indeed they are not always orange! Tonight when I pulled out the bag of red carrots I had bought at the Farmer's Market on Sunday she was shocked to see that I wasn't really joking - carrots can be all sorts of colors!

The following comes from an article I found on the USDA's website: (check it out, it's rather interesting!)

...These crunchy orange roots are also a well-known source of vitamin A. Just a single, full-size carrot more than fulfills an adult's daily quotient of the essential vitamin.
But the carrot hasn't always been the vitamin A powerhouse that it is today. Over two decades ago, scientists in the
ARS Vegetable Crops Research Unit at Madison, Wisconsin, began a quest to breed carrots packed with beta-carotene—an orange pigment used by the body to create vitamin A. Thanks largely to this ARS work, today's carrots provide consumers with 75 percent more beta-carotene than those available 25 years ago.

The researchers, led by plant geneticist Philipp Simon, haven't limited themselves to the color orange. They've selectively bred a rainbow of carrots—purple, red, yellow, even white. Scientists are learning that these plant pigments perform a range of protective duties in the human body—which is not surprising, says Simon, since many of the pigments serve to shield plant cells during photosynthesis.

Red carrots derive their color mainly from lycopene, a type of carotene believed to guard against heart disease and some cancers. Yellow carrots accumulate xanthophylls, pigments similar to beta-carotene that support good eye health. Purple carrots possess an entirely different class of pigments—anthocyanins—which act as powerful antioxidants.

So what does one do with these full-of-vitamin veggies? Cook them, of course!

Red Carrots with Tarragon
1 lb. red carrots, washed well, lightly peeled and sliced into 1/2" circles
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. minced fresh Tarragon + 1/2 tsp for garnish
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt

In a medium saute pan, melt butter over medium-high heat until it bubbles. Add in the carrots and saute about 1 minute. Add the salt, sugar, tarragon and broth - stir well. Cover and cook on medium heat about 10 minutes or until carrots are soft when pierced with a fork. Pour into serving bowl and cover with tarragon garnish.

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