If baby carrots are the only carrots you are familiar with, you need to visit your local farmers market and see what they have to offer! Carrots come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Carrots are delicious, nutritious, and last forever. Carrots are one of those vegetables you may find now locally, since they keep so well all winter.
What do Local Carrots Taste Like?
Most people know what a carrot tastes like. You may describe them as earthy or sweet. They are crisp and crunchy when raw. They sweeten up when cooked. Some carrot varieties are described as having a parsley or pine flavor, while others are more woody or are sweeter.
Carrots sweeten as they grow, and a ripe carrot will be sweetest. As they grow, they make sugar during the day and then burn it at night. As nights grow cooler the carrots don’t burn as much of the sugar at night, so carrots grown in the fall and spring are often the sweetest.
Growing and Buying Local Carrots
Carrots are biennials, meaning they grown over two seasons. The first season is when they make their roots, and the second season is when they set seed, using the roots for energy. Carrots are usually harvested during the first year when the roots are at their peak.
Carrots can be grown spring through fall, but are best in the cooler months. They are grown in loose soil for straight roots. Obstacles make them fork.
My Dad grew amazing carrots but grew them in clay, so we always had forked carrots as kids. I always wondered why our carrots looked so different.
Local carrots are easy to find at the farmers markets year round. Carrots store well, so they usually easy to find locally.
Types of Local Carrots
Local carrots can come in many different colors. You may see purple, red, yellow, or white local carrots, not just orange ones. The purple and red ones may be colored only on the outside, or they may be colored throughout.
Orange and red carrots taste similarly. Purple carrots are often sweeter and sometimes peppery. The white carrots are the sweetest ones, and don’t taste earthy.
Carrots also come in different shapes and sizes. Traditional carrots are long and taper to a point. However, there are carrots out there that are nearly cylindrical. There are longer and shorter roots. There are even ball shaped carrots, that are great for growing in containers.
Storing your Local Carrots
Local carrots are great vegetables for storing all winter. With a bit of prep work and the right environment, you could be eating fresh carrots all winter long.
At a minimum, if you cut the tops off and wrap them in a wet paper towel, your carrots can stay good in a refrigerator drawer for at least a month. You can also store them submerged in water, cleaning it out every 4-5 days. Stored in water, they will keep for a month.
If you can create root cellar conditions, you can store carrots in damp sand all winter long. Keep them below 40F, and keep them moist. Carrots can last until May under these conditions.
If you can’t keep carrots at the right temperature, freezing them is the next best choice to keep carrots all winter. Remove the tops, slice them, blanch them, and freeze your carrots for later.
Carrot gardeners have an additional option to try for storing their carrots. Try storing them right in the ground where they grow! Mulch well to keep the ground from freezing, and make sure to use dug carrots quickly because they may not last once you harvest them.
Local Carrot Recipes
I add carrots to everything. They go in stir fries, in soups, in stews, and in salads. Local carrots keep so well and add flavor and nutrition to so many of my dishes. For my family, we don’t look for carrot specific recipes, because most of our meals use them already!
Yet there are definitely a lot of delicious sounding recipes out there to try. Here are a few interesting sounding ones for inspiration.
- Don’t waste the carrot tops! You can try making Carrot Tops Vegetable Broth with them.
- I love roasted vegetables. Try this Perfect Roasted Carrots recipe.
- Carrot Muffins are always a hit in my house. I like lowering the sugar where I can as well, and using fresh ground whole wheat flour.
- I love trying new curry recipes. I will have to try making this Curried Carrots with Pecans recipe soon.
Local Carrot Trivia
Carrots come in lots of colors! Why are all the ones at the store orange? Well, in the 16th century, the Dutch sold a lot of carrots, and an orange variety grew very well there. Over time, the Dutch kept growing orange carrots because it was the national color.
So-called “baby carrots” are nothing more than grown up carrots cut into pieces and “polished” as they tumble together. They are a marketing ploy to increase carrot consumption. Baby carrots cost more than regular carrots, and won’t last as long in your fridge.
The Queen Anne’s Lace plant is actually a wild carrot plant. It is edible, though perhaps not as tasty as cultivated carrots.
Carrots are delicious, store well, and are great in most dishes. Buy them locally and see what kinds of colors you can find!