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Debbie JohnsonWriterUniversity of Missouri ExtensionPhone: 573-882-9183Email: JohnsonD@missouri.edu
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"Carrots are divine...You get a dozen for a dime, It's maaaa-gic!" ~ Bugs Bunny
Credit: National Garden Bureau
Published: Wednesday, April 9, 2014
David H. Trinklein, 573-882-9631Tammy Roberts, 660-679-4167
COLUMBIA, Mo. – It’s not surprising that “carrot” describes a lure or incentive. Sweet, full of vitamins and antioxidants, carrots should entice you as a winner for your home garden.
“If we’re talking about a limited amount of garden space and we want to grow as much nutritional value as we can, carrots are a good choice,” said David Trinklein, horticulture specialist for University of Missouri Extension. “This is a vegetable that is extremely nutritious.”
This cool-season vegetable does not transplant well, so carrots should be seeded directly into the garden. Germination is the biggest hurdle. Trinklein says by investing a little money, you can help the carrot seedlings get a good start.
“I suggest instead of covering the seeds with soil, cover them with a soilless medium containing peat moss, vermiculite and perlite,” Trinklein said. “This will keep the seeds moist without crusting over, which is a real problem if you cover the seeds with clay-type soil.”
If you don’t want to buy a soilless medium, you will need to keep the soil moist but not soggy. If you don’t, Trinklein says, the tiny carrot seedlings will not be able to break through the soil.
Since carrot seed is fairly inexpensive, Trinklein says it’s best if you seed densely into relatively light soil.
As the seedlings come up, you can thin them at various degrees of maturity, Trinklein said. The young carrots are the tastiest and can go raw into salads. Later you will get succulent carrots that are great for cooking and, finally, you can harvest full-grown carrots. He says it’s best not to leave mature carrots in the ground too long because the root will eventually become woody and fibrous.
If you like baby carrots, Trinklein says, growing carrots in your garden is the best way to ensure a steady supply.
“Most baby carrots sold in stores are small carrots that have been carved out of large ones,” Trinklein said. “They’re the best part of the big carrot, but they’re not young carrots.”
If carrot perfection is your goal, fertilize carefully.
“One of the things you have to worry about is timing the addition of nitrogen because it can cause secondary growth and the root will start to split,” Trinklein said.
Carrots are an ancient plant originally grown for medicinal properties. They’re believed to have originated in Afghanistan thousands of years ago. Those early plants were nothing like today’s tasty carrot.
“You would not want to eat a carrot from that era. It probably would be more than you could stomach,” Trinklein said. “They were thought to be bitter and rather pungent. This has largely been eliminated via plant breeding.”
This extremely versatile vegetable is good raw or cooked, and it has a longer refrigerator storage life than many other fresh vegetables, said Tammy Roberts, nutrition specialist for University of Missouri Extension.
“A half cup of carrots has only 25 calories and 6 grams of carbohydrate,” Roberts said. “There is 2 grams of fiber and 210 percent of the daily value of vitamin A for the day.”
Carrots actually provide more antioxidants when they’re cooked, Roberts says. Cooking, however, destroys nutrients like vitamin C. She recommends eating both raw and cooked carrots to get the greatest benefit.
“Best of all, carrots are a favorite for many children,” Roberts said.
This nutritious vegetable is easy to grow and one your kids will eat willingly. With so many advantages, it’s no small wonder that Bugs Bunny carried carrots with him everywhere.
Recipes provided by Share Our Strength from the Cooking Matters program.
Pineapple Carrot Muffins
Chef Bob Casey, Boston, Mass.
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Rinse and peel carrot. Shred with a grater. Measure out 3/4 cup shredded carrot.
3. In a medium bowl, add pineapple with juice, oil, water, vinegar and shredded carrot. Mix with a fork to combine.
4. In a large bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Blend well with a fork to break up any lumps.
5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
6. If using walnuts or raisins, gently stir in now.
7. Coat muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full with batter. Bake on middle rack of oven until muffin tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.
Moroccan Carrot Salad
Chef Nadine Nelson, Boston, Mass.
1. Rinse and peel carrots and onion.
2. Shred carrots with a grater. Dice onion.
3. Rinse lemon and cut in half. In a small bowl, squeeze juice. Discard seeds.
4. In a medium bowl, combine carrots and onions.
5. In a second small bowl, combine oil, curry powder, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Mix well. Let marinate 5 minutes.
6. Pour liquid mixture over carrots and onions. Stir in raisins. Mix well.
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