Carrots are one of the most versatile and fundamental vegetables in culinary recipes. Carrots have a way of showing up everywhere from raw, cooked, sweet, and savory recipes.
Carrots come in many shapes and sizes from small little round thumbalina carrots to large elongated horse carrots. Their skin is smooth and often has little root hairs and range in color from orange, yellow, purple, red, black, to white. They’re great for dunking into dips like hummus and ranch, shredded into coleslaw, pickled for charcuterie boards or for sandwiches, cooked into braises, soups, or roasted with other root vegetables for sweetness. They play well with almost everything from nuts, bacon, cheese, curry, ginger, mushrooms, and even cream cheese for that classic carrot cake recipe. Even the tops of carrots can be used. I like to make a pesto with the carrot tops and pair it with a nice cheese. When roasting carrots, I like to leave the peel on. I feel the skin becomes crispy and helps contain the silken soft flesh on the inside once roasted. If I’m going to eat a carrot raw, braised, sautéed, or steamed, more than likely I’m peeling the skin because the skin becomes unattractive.
Carrots are best when bought in the winter or after the first frost, as farmers and chefs call them “over wintered” carrots. Over wintering is the process of when the food reserves convert the starches to sugars and make them much sweeter. When buying carrots, look for firm, hearty, looking ones. If you find some with the greens attached, be sure the greens are vibrant, lush, and look like they were just picked. If I know I’m going to roast carrots whole such as Farm2ChefsTable recipe “Slowly-roasted Carrots with Quinoa, Kale, Vadouvan Curry Oil & Yogurt” I try to find ones that are similar in size and shape so they cook more evenly. Carrots will keep for a couple weeks if stored properly in a cool dark place.