Everybody knows about carrots, right? They're sweet. They're crunchy. And bunnies just love them. Nothing to learn, right?
Then tell us: When is carrot season? Spring, right? No, wait, winter. And about those carrot tops: They're poisonous. Or are they delicious?
Looks like a Q&A is needed after all. Let's start.
1. When is carrot season?
Carrots are sold year-round, but that doesn't mean they don't have a season like ramps or asparagus. In fact, carrots are so seasonal they have two seasons: They're planted when the ground begins to soften in early spring (for a late-spring harvest), and planted again in late summer (for a fall harvest). Fall carrots are often cellared for longterm winter storage (or even left in the ground, covered with mulch, and pulled through the winter in more temperate climates), which is why they're one of the few vegetables you'll find at a middle-of-winter farmers market.
2. You call those purple things carrots?
True fact: Orange carrots may be the norm now, but before Orange Long and Imperator (two common varieties found in most supermarkets) took over, carrots were available in all sorts of shades, from vibrant purple and deep red to pale yellow and even white. Depending on the variety, some are more sweet while others have earthy notes. Mark Psilos, the Associate Director of Green City Market in Chicago, calls out one crowd favorite called Purple Haze: "It has a really dark purple exterior with a deep orange interior. It definitely has an earthier flavor but I find the big difference to be textural—it's generally a bit more robust and crunchy and is particularly great for soups."
3. Are baby carrots really babies?
The ones you see collected in plastic bags? Nope. Though cute, the baby carrots found in bags at the supermarket are actually adult carrots that have been cut and trimmed down to snacking size. Real baby carrots are simply carrots that have been harvested early and haven't grown out to normal size. You'll recognize them because, unlike the stubby, rounded baby carrots in stores, these actually look like real carrots (only smaller).
4. Do I really need to take out the peeler?
Depends. The super fresh, just-pulled-from-the-ground carrots that are hitting farmers markets now are more delicate than the big carrots you'll find in the winter. To make sure new spring and fall carrots stay sweet and crunchy, cut off the greens and submerge them in water in a sealed container. Keep the container in the refrigerator and change the water every 4-5 days. If stored this way, they'll keep for about a month. Another option from Psilos: "I've had success wrapping them in a paper towel and storing them in the crisper." Winter carrots don't need as much TLC. "They tend to be a little bit bigger and more hearty," says Psilos. "I've even kept them outside of the refrigerator. Just make sure they are kept cool and dry."
See more unusual carrot facts.
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