Carrots are one of the most popular and well-loved vegetables. The taproot of the carrot plant is the part that's eaten, and it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Carrots are particularly rich in antioxidants, and are a wonderful way to add flavor and texture to many delicious vegetable recipes. In this article, we'll talk about growing carrots, selecting and serving carrots, and the health benefits of carrots.

many carrots
The part of the carrot that is eaten is its taproot. See more pictures of vegetables.

About Carrots

Carrots are hardy biennials that are grown as annuals. They have a rosette of finely divided, fern-like leaves growing from a swollen, fleshy taproot. The root, which varies in size and shape, is generally a tapered cylinder that grows up to l0 inches long in different shades of orange.

Common Name: Carrot
Scientific Name: Daucus carota sativis
Hardiness: Hardy (
may survive first frost)

In the next section, we'll show you how to grow carrots.

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Growing Carrots

Carrots are hardy biennials that are grown as annuals. The thick, vividly colored taproot of the carrot plant is the part that's eaten and loved for its sweet flavor and crunchy texture.

There are all types of carrots -- long, short, fat, thin -- they differ only in size and shape. Your soil type will influence the variety you choose. Shorter varieties will tolerate heavy soil. Carrots are cool-weather crops and tolerate cold.

carrots
The root of the carrot plant can vary in shape and size.

For a continuous crop, plant carrots every two to three weeks starting two to three weeks before the date of last frost. Sow the seeds directly in the garden. Wide-row planting of carrots gives a good yield from a small area. Carrot seedlings grow slowly when young, so it's important to control weeds during the first few weeks. In areas with high soil temperatures, mulch to regulate soil temperature.

Harvesting Carrots

The time from planting to harvest is from 55 to 80 days, depending on variety. Pull carrots when the soil is moist: If you try to pull them from hard ground, you'll break the roots. In warmer areas, late season carrots can be kept in the garden throughout most of the winter and harvested as needed.

Types of Carrots

You have several types of colorful carrots to choose from when growing carrots in your home garden.
We've listed the different varieties of carrots below.
  • Danvers Half Long, harvest at 75 days, is uniform-size at 7 inches; it is bright orange and sweet.
  • Short 'n' Sweet, harvest at 68 days, produces 4-inch roots and is good for heavy soil.
  • Thumbelina, harvest at 60 to 70 days, is an All America Selection; bred for heavy soils, it produces 2-inch round carrots.
  • Juwarot, harvest at 70 days, is dark orange and grows to 8 inches long.
  • Yellowstone, harvest at 95 days, is soft yellow.
  • Purple Haze, harvest at 70 days, has purple flesh and an orange core.
Check out the next section to learn how to select and prepare carrots.

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Selecting Carrots

Carrots can add flavor, color and plenty of extra nutrition to your meals. Carrots also make a great crunchy, hearty snack.

carrot being sliced
Slice the ends off of carrots
before serving and eating.

Look for firm carrots with bright orange color and smooth skin. Avoid carrots if they are limp or black near the tops; they're not fresh. Choose medium-sized ones that taper at the ends. Thicker ones may be tough. In general, early carrots are more tender but less sweet than larger, mature carrots. Clip greens as soon as you are home to avoid moisture loss. Store greens and carrots separately in perforated plastic bags in your refrigerator's crisper drawer. Carrots keep for a few weeks; greens last only a few days.

Tips for Preparing and Serving Carrots

Thoroughly wash and scrub carrots to remove soil contaminants. Being root vegetables, carrots tend to end up with more pesticide residues than non-root vegetables. You can get rid of much of it by peeling the outer layer and by cutting off and discarding one-quarter inch off the fat end.

Carrots are a great raw snack, of course. But their true sweet flavor shines through when cooked. Very little nutritional value is lost in cooking, unless you overcook them until mushy. In fact, the nutrients in lightly cooked carrots are more usable by your body than those in raw carrots, because cooking breaks down their tough cell walls, which releases beta-carotene.

Steaming is your best bet for cooking carrots. Take advantage of the fact that most children love carrots, raw or cooked. But avoid serving coin-shaped slices to young children; they can choke on them. Cut them into quarters or julienne strips.

The soluble fiber in carrots can add thickness to lots of foods, taking the place of high-calorie butter and cream. The stronger the flavor of the soup or sauce, the more it will hide the carrot flavor. You can even use carrots when baking as long as you puree them -- or add grated carrots to homemade quick breads.

Carrots can easily be added to soups, stews, or roasted in a pan with your favorite meats, to add healthy vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids to make any meal healthier.

Keep reading to learn about the many health benefits of carrots.

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Health Benefits of Carrots

If you don't have a bag of carrots sitting in your refrigerator or carrots growing in your garden, you should -- they're anything but ordinary when it comes to nutrition.

bunch of carrots
Carrots are high in vitamin A.

Health Benefits of Carrots

One of carrots' fat-fighting features is their respectable fiber content, half of which is the soluble fiber calcium pectate. Soluble fiber may help lower blood-cholesterol levels by binding with and eliminating bile acids, triggering
cholesterol to be drawn out of the bloodstream to make more bile acids.

Carrots have few rivals when it comes to beta-carotene. A mere half-cup serving of cooked carrots packs a walloping four times the RDA of vitamin A in the form of protective beta-carotene. One raw carrot supposedly contains as much, though it's not clear if all of it's usable by your body. Beta-carotene may ward off cancers of the stomach, cervix, uterus, and the oral cavity, and it helps prevent heart disease due to its antioxidant abilities. The National Cancer Institute is studying the whole family of umbelliferous foods, of which carrots are a member, for protective effects. Recent research results from Harvard University suggest that people who eat more than five carrots a week are much less likely to suffer a stroke than those who eat only one carrot a month

Finally, like Mom said, carrots do help your eyes. The retina of the eye needs vitamin A to function; a deficiency of vitamin A causes night blindness. Though extra vitamin A won't help you see better, its antioxidant properties may help prevent cataracts and keep your eyes healthy.

Nutritional Values of Fresh and Cooked Carrot
Serving Size: 1/2 cup chopped
Calories 27
Fat <1 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 6 g
Protein 1 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Sodium 45 mg
Vitamin A 13,418 IU
Vitamin B6 <1 mg
Manganese <1 mg
Potassium 183 mg
Carotenoids 10,138 micrograms

Want more information about carrots? Try:
  • Vegetable Recipes: Find delicious recipes that feature carrots.
  • Nutrition: Find out how carrots fit in with your overall nutrition plans.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.