Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables in our kitchen and for good reasons says dietitian Nicole Senior. For a start, they are very versatile: they are delicious raw or cooked, and can blend in to most dishes whether it is a stir fry, casserole, grill or salad. It’s really no wonder you’ll find them in most people’s refrigerator. One of my favourite ways to eat this sunshine-y root vegetable is roasted whole with a short length of stem still on (wash thoroughly, then just brush with a little oil and bake). With the water content reduced by the oven, the caramelisation of the natural sugars creates a kind of magic in your mouth and one of the many reasons I shall never be a raw foodist! Which reminds me of another favourite way to enjoy them: with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and honey (and a sprinkle of cumin if you like a little spice). I love them in soup too and marvel how well they go with chicken and chickpeas, or in the slow cooker with beef and lentils.
There’s another kind of magic that happens when carrots are cooked long and slow and turn to velvet but still hold their shape: so comforting. But of course, carrots also shine in summer salads and the trick to a super salad is to slice the carrot in long slender strips or ribbons. You can do strips or batons with a sharp knife but you’ll look like a pro if you use a julienne blade on a V-slicer that produces willowy, regular lengths that look gorgeous and perform a texture tango in your mouth. Another very modern idea is to use a spiralizer to make long curly carrot noodles (‘coodles’ anyone?) or vegetable peeler to slice long ribbons. If you do the same with zucchini you can create a two-colour ribbon salad that only needs your favourite chopped herbs and a knockout vinaigrette dressing.
Aside from all this, carrots are really good for you. They even give their name to a family of phytochemicals called carotenoids: carrots are rich in a particular type called beta-carotene that gives them their orange colour. But carrots were purple or dull yellow 5000 years ago in Afghanistan where they are thought to originate, but these ‘heirloom’ varieties are now available again and look simply spectacular on your plate. Being root vegetables, carrots of any colour are high in fibre for digestive health. They also have impressive amounts of vitamin K for healthy bones, vitamin C for immunity and potassium to maintain ideal blood pressure. And if that wasn’t enough, munching on carrots is good for the teeth and gums too because they massage the gums and increase production of saliva which rinses out the mouth and helps to protect against decay.
Raw or cooked, carrots won’t send your blood glucose on a roller coaster ride either. Why? Well, not only are they low GI (39), they have very few carbs. In fact, to get a hefty portion of carbs (38 g) from carrots you’d have to crunch through at least 5 cups or 750g (about 1½lb) raw at a sitting – a pretty awesome achievement even for carrot lovers.