International Carrot Day is celebrated every year on April 4 with food lovers around the world whipping up their favourite carrot-inspired dishes in honour of this ancient vegetable.
But what of this oddly shaped root crop that comes in a variety of colours including the commonly recognised orange version? It is thought that they originated in Persia (modern day Iran) and were originally cultivated for their aromatic leaves and seeds rather than the roots. A member of the parsley family, it was first grown for medicinal purposes and as early as the 10th century, the wild carrot was being used to ease childbirth for women. Other close relatives of the carrot are coriander, fennel, anise, dill and cumin.
Here are three interesting carrot facts:
There are more types of carrots than you have ever imagined. Long Oranges, tiny and stout Early Short Horns, thin Half-Long Horns, the giant Jaune Obtuse du Doubs, fat Danvers, long and skinny Imperators, round Paris Markets, perfectly even Berlicums, Crème de Lite, Sirkana, Top Cut, Red Core Chantenay, Scarlet Nantes and, in the spirit of Game of Thrones, Little Finger, a small orange specimen developed in France, to name but a few.
Carrots are made up of 88 percent water. In comparison, on average humans are made of only 60 percent water.
Carrots contain the richest sources of beta-carotene, the chemical that gives fruits and vegetables a yellow-orange pigment that turns into vitamin A in our systems. While it won’t make you see in the dark, beta-carotene does help with eyesight, as well as boost the immune system and promote healthy skin.
In South Africa, the most popular carrot dishes are glazed carrots, curried carrot salad, coleslaw and the globally popular carrot cake.
We asked some of the successful alumni graduates from Capsicum Culinary Studio for their favourite carrot recipes and here’s what they sent us …
Charmaine’s Chilli Carrot Soup
Charmaine Lehabe is the co-founder of The Squared Experience, a private fine dining company that has been making waves in Gauteng.
She runs the company, along with fellow Capsicum alumnus Thandeka Nhlapo
1 tbs butter
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or parsley
5 cups chopped carrots
2 cups water
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup cream
½ teaspoon salt
2 green chilis
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat butter and oil in a pan over medium heat until the butter melts. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and thyme (or parsley) and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Stir in carrots. Add water and broth and bring to a lively simmer over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer gently until very tender, about 25 minutes. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Stir in the cream (if using) and salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread.
Franco’s Glazed Carrots
Following a stint at the Four Seasons Westcliff, Franco Buys now works as a personal chef providing home cooked meals, platters, healthy meal plans,
speciality dishes and cooking classes.He also works with Chef & Guests which provides fine dining meals in the comfort of your own home.
1kg rainbow carrots
2 tbs vegetable oil
4 tbs butter
2 whole garlic cloves
2 tbs of honey
5g fresh thyme
5g fresh sage
Rinse the carrots under cold water to remove any soil. Place the unpeeled carrots into a pot of boiling salted water and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove from water and onto a separate dish and season with salt and pepper. Heat up a pan to high and first add the oil, then the butter, garlic, sage and thyme. Add your carrots and toss in pan until they start to colour slightly. Lower the heat to medium, add the honey and let the carrots glaze and bubble for about a minute or two. Check for seasoning.
Hendrik’s Carrot Muffins
(Makes 12 large muffins)
Hendrik Pretorius, who hails from Middleburg, now bakes treats for visitors to the Lisbon-based coffee shop, Simpli, where he works,
and says hiscarrot muffins are always amongst the first to be snapped up.
5ml bicarbonate of soda
20ml baking powder
2 large egg
100g carrots, finely grated
4 tsp cinnamon powder
4 tsp vanilla essence
5ml ginger powder
Preheat oven to 180ºC and place a rack in the centre of the oven. Grease a 12-cup muffin tray with butter or baking spray. In a medium bowl whisk together the oil, yoghurt, milk, eggs and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, bicarb, baking powder and ginger powder. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the wet mixture into the centre and fold together until the ingredients are well combined. Add the grated carrots and mix thoroughly. Using a spoon, scoop the mixture into the muffin cups until each cup is about ¾ full. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the muffin tray halfway through the baking time until the muffins are golden brown. (Insert a skewer and if it comes out clean the muffins are done.) Remove the muffin pan from the oven and let the muffins cool in the pan before serving.