Carrots: picking, selecting, storing
20 Oct 2013 05.43 am by Renny Wijeyamohan
Carrots are an ancient vegetable. Initially gathered for medicinal purposes in their inedible wild form, carrots are now harvested in their orange or purple domestic form. They are fleshy and sweet, high in energy and are a great source of, Vitamins A, C and K and Potassium. Carrots contain important dietary fiber that helps manage cholesterol – in fact – studies have suggested that the eating 2 carrots a day can reduce cholesterol by 11%.
Most carrot varieties can be harvested within 3 months. Carrots don’t “ripen” as such, they just get bigger and firmer. If you prefer small and tender “baby” carrots move your picking cycle earlier. You can tell how big a carrot is by brushing away some of the dirt around the carrot top to reveal the width of the carrot. Most carrot varieties will be at their prime size when the width of the carrot is about 2.5cm (approx. 1 inch) in diameter. As a rule, the larger and bushier the carrot top, the wider the carrot will be. Depending on the hardness of your soil and the variety of carrot you have planted, the carrot length will vary. To harvest carrots, gently pull at the base of the carrot top with a twisting motion. Once you have harvested the carrot, slice off the carrot top (because it will continue to draw nutrients out of the carrot) and wash and scrub the carrots before cooking.
Choose carrots with a smooth texture and an orange complexion. Avoid carrots with cracks, blemishes, wilted greens (if the carrot tops are still attached), that are limp and rubbery and that have a green head from sun exposure. Since carrots are usually peeled before eating, fibrous strands and slight ridges or bumps in the texture are normal and will not hamper taste or quality.
Carrots can be refrigerated or frozen. If refrigerated properly, carrots can last for about a month – although it’s recommend that they be eaten within 2 weeks to retain peak nutritional value. To refrigerate, slice off the leafy green carrot top and place the carrot in a perforated plastic bag or bubble wrap in the chilled section of your refrigerator. Do not wash them until they are ready to be used. To freeze carrots, you will need to blanch them first. To do this – peel and slice them before placing them in boiling water for about 5 minutes. After this, place the sliced carrot in some water with ice to cool down, before bagging and freezing. Frozen carrots prepared in this way should last between 9 and 14 months.
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