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Friday, January 8, 2010

Seasonal Vegetable Profile: Carrots

In history: Cultivated white during classical times and yellow in medieval times, carrots did not get their trademark orange color until they were bred by farmers in the 17th century to honor the royal Dutch House of Orange.

Health: Known for being packed with beta-carotene, carrots supply over 300% of the Daily Value (as Vitamin A) per ½ cup when steamed. Studies show diets rich in beta-carotene from vegetables like carrots lower the risk for breast, prostate and other cancers.

In the garden: Most varieties of carrots should be harvested when they are no more than 1½ inches in diameter. This prevents them from developing an unpleasant woody flavor.

Companion planting: Plant carrots near lettuce; lettuce leaves will keep the sensitive carrot seedlings safe by providing moisture and shade. Their different growth cycles allow the harvesting of the lettuce just as the carrots need more space to grow.

Did you know? Pigments called carotenoids are responsible for most of the yellow and orange colors in fruits and vegetables as well as the red of tomatoes, watermelon and chillis. These pigments are so named because the first member of this family of pigments to be chemically isolated came from carrots.

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Sources:
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner: New York, 2004.
Health content provided by Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis, www.lizapplegate.com
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