Harvest of the Month: Carrots at Tahoe Truckee Unified School Districct
April 22, 2009
Eh, what’s up Doc? Truckee Tahoe Unified School District elementary school students are tasting carrots this month as part of the Harvest of the Month program.
Although carrots are a familiar and favorite vegetable for children and adults, most people do not know about their interesting history. Carrots are believed to have originated in the Near East and Central Asia, near Afghanistan.
These carrots were purple, ranging in color from lavender to deep eggplant. A yellow rooted carrot variety arose from a mutation in the gene that produced the purple pigment. Both types of carrots spread throughout the Mediterranean and were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for medicinal purposes. During the Middle Ages, Europeans began using carrots for food.
The orange carrot we are familiar with today is commonly attributed to the Dutch. During the 16th century, Dutch horticulturists used selective breeding to intensify both the orange color and sweetness of the carrot. This carrot was developed in honor of William I of Orange, who led the Dutch in their fight for independence from Spain. Today, this is the dominant species grown around the world.
Carrots are a root vegetable that contain large amount of plant pigments called carotinoids. In fact, carrots are the richest source of beta-carotene, an important antioxidant that is converted to Vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene helps to protect vision, especially night vision. It is also associated with protecting against macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in the elderly. In addition, the antioxidants in carrots help protect against heart disease and cancer. Carrots are also a good source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, folate and the minerals calcium, magnesium and manganese.
Carrots are available year-round in California. Choose carrots that are firm, deep orange, and well shaped. If you purchase carrots with the greens still attached, remove the greens before storing because they will deplete the carrots of moisture and nutrients. Store carrots in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Baby carrots are convenient, but not as sweet as slimmer, “young carrots.” Most “baby” carrots are larger carrots that have been peeled and cut down to size.
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The natural sweetness of carrots makes them a good addition to cakes and muffins. Shredded carrots are great in sandwiches and salads and can be used an alternative to jelly in a peanut butter sandwich. Carrots are very portable and make a great snack or crunchy side dish at lunch.
” Maria Martin, MPH, RD is a member of the Nutrition Coalition and a Wellness Dietitian. The Nutrition Coalition is funded and supported by the Tahoe Health System through the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance. Contact us at 587-3769, ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.