Nantes Carrots
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Nantes Carrots are a sweet heirloom variety of Carrot developed in France in 1870 and named for the French town of Nantes.  The Nantes Carrot is medium-sized, can grow up to 7 inches long, in a nearly perfect cylinder. They are blunt and rounded on both ends. 

Nantes Carrots are part of the Apiaceae plant family, which includes a number of other Vegetables and Herbs such as Parsley, Celery, Fennel, Chervil, Cumin, Parsnips and Celeriac.  The modern domestic Carrot (Daucus carōta, sativus) is the taproot of the Carrot plant which makes them, by definition, a Root Vegetable. Carrots are the second most popular Vegetable in the world running just a bit behind Potatoes, with other veggie favorites such as Broccoli, Onions, Lettuce and Tomatoes (technically a Fruit) in a pack close behind.

Carrots, which were purple in the wild, are believed to have been domesticated in 5000 BC. They were first mentioned in print in the 1st century. The name “carrot” has been used since late Roman times when the Root Vegetable was called “carōta” in Latin, derived from an Indo-European root “ker” meaning “horn,” describing the taproot’s horn-like shape. Think about an early cultivated purple Carrot and the horn imagery shines through much better.

The familiar modern orange Carrot is called the Western Carrot (or Carotene Carrot). It was likely developed from a mutant or hybrid of a yellow colored Eastern Carrot. The breeding and cross-breeding history is unclear and the record keeping was not great at the time, but the first records in Europe indicate that purple and yellow Carrots arrived sometime in the 8th to 11th century and that orange Carrots, like the Nantes Carrot, appeared much later, in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Season

Under the right conditions, Carrots take about 2-4 months to grow, which gardeners and farmers have learned to manipulate to keep the Carrots coming throughout the year. In the strictest, most natural sense, Carrots are known as a Fall Vegetable, though they actually have two recognized Seasons. In addition to the fall they are also a late Spring crop. The Nantes Carrots are predominantly grown during the late spring harvest.  The excess from one season’s crop goes into cold storage to tide all of us over until the next fresh crop of Carrots is available.

Cultivation

Nantes Carrots are suitable for most soil types.

Carrots grow from seeds and should be planted in the late spring for a summer harvest. They are not the fastest growers and take an average of 60 to 75 days to reach full maturity.

Carrots are biennial plants.  This means if you leave them in the ground the first year, they will produce flowers and then seeds the second year.

If you wish to grow Nantes Carrots yourself, they do well in most soil types and sprout in 10 to 12 days after being sown, preferably about 3/4 of an inch (2 cm) deep.  They grow best in full sun but can tolerate some shade.  To keep from growing oddly shaped Carrots, avoid tight, rocky soil that makes the taproot flex and curve as it grows. 

Carrots are also a useful companion plant. They are especially helpful planted near Tomatoes, Alliums (Leeks, Shallots and Onions), Beans and Lettuces, and are helped to produce more themselves if grown alongside Alliums, Beans, Rosemary and Sage.

Carrot root flies threaten growing Carrots, but cultivating Carrots with fragrant (pungent) Onions, Leeks and/or Chives can help repel the pest. Carrots are known to do well around Caraway, Coriander, Chamomile and Marigold. Flowering Carrot plants are attractive to wasps that may prey on other veggie-chomping garden bugs.

Production

Except where the climate is too hot, Carrots are grown all over the world. China (45%), Russia (4%) and the United States (3.6%) are the leading commercial producers of this economically significant agricultural product. All told, we earthlings grow about 37 tons of Carrots a year. Nantes Carrots are the most widely cultivated Carrot type in the world. They are about half of the annual volume.

Domestically, California produces about 87% of all our U.S. commercially grown Carrots. Grimmways Farms is the largest individual Carrot producer and Bolthouse Farms is the second largest. Both are located in California where the ideal climate allows them to plant and harvest two crops a year. In fact, the city of Holtville, Ca claims that it is the “Carrot Capital of the World” with an Annual Carrot Festival in February and everything (the festival link goes offsite to the Holtville Chamber of Commerce). 

Most Carrots are mechanically harvested by a Carrot Harvester, a machine that harvests anywhere from 1-6 rows of field Carrots at a time by cutting the roots from below and picking up the whole plant by the leaves by grasping the leaves. The carrots are transferred to storage containers for delivery to packing facilities where they are cleaned, washed, graded and packed ready for immediate delivery to your supermarket. They are handled as carefully as possible during the harvesting, washing and packing process to avoid damaging the roots.

The fresh market, Carrots sold as fresh produce, dominates global carrot production. Uniformity, flavor, shape, color and smoothness are the traits that matter in the fresh market. About 76% of the Carrots grown in the U.S. are sold into the fresh carrot market. Most of the Nantes Carrots grown in the U.S are sold into this market segment.

Within the fresh market, there is also a segment known as the Bunching market (carrots sold in bunches) that require Carrots to have a good taste and to fit the mold in terms of color, form, length, shape, and foliage (the Carrot Greens).

About 24% of our total domestic production becomes some sort of processed Carrot. In growing for the processed market, color, yield and long lasting flavor are the important criteria. Processed Carrots may  become Frozen Carrots or Canned Carrots. Some processed Carrots become Carrot Juice.

Varieties

There are a number of varieties of Nantes Carrots including Scarlet Nantes, Early Nantes, Nantes Coreless and Nantes Half Long. The Scarlet Nantes Carrot is such a deep orange color that it is almost red.

Purchasing

Look for Nantes Carrots with bright, vibrant colors and few “hairs” growing out of the taproot. If there are hairs, that is a sign of aging, toughening, carrots.

Any Carrot Greens, the clipped top where the greens were attached, should be fresh green. If the greens are turning brown or black that is a bad sign. Small, young Carrots are likely to be sweeter than larger ones.

Storage

Nantes Carrots are best stored wrapped in a plastic bag or in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. They will last longer if they are kept fairly dry.  Refrigerated young Carrots have a shelf life of approximately 2 weeks. Mature Carrots will last up to a month refrigerated.

Exposure to sunlight, high temperatures or physical damage can cause the Carrot roots to generate alcohol, as well as a bitter defensive chemical, which can add a solvent-like aroma to your dishes.

Removing the Carrot tops before storage increases their shelf life because the greens, as long as they are attached to the Carrot, continue to pull moisture and nutrients out of the taproot. 

Use the vegetable drawer/crisper drawer for Carrots to keep them away from Fruit. Exposure to the ethylene gas given off by Fruit makes Carrots taste bitter. Carrots can also absorb the odors from Apples and Pears.

Culinary Uses

The short story on the Culinary Uses of Nantes Carrots is that they are a Root Vegetable, with a very interesting and useful footnote: they have the additional desirable trait of being a subtle Aromatic (see more below).

On Smart Kitchen’s Home Plate™ Nantes Carrots are Raw, Tough, Thick, Moist and Lean. That is, Carrots, unlike most Root Vegetables, can be eaten Raw and do not need to be cooked to be consumed.

Fresh raw Carrots have a crisp texture but can be a little tough, especially the older, bigger ones. Luckily, they can be tenderized by cooking for a better chew. Fresh Carrots can handle a lot of cooking time and a lot of cooking heat. Cooking them also weakens their cell walls, freeing their natural sugars and making Carrots taste sweeter.

They are thick (at least usually at the root end) and can be thinned with SlicingDicingGrating, etc. With 87% water content, Carrots are Moist. They are also Lean, with a very low fat content (less than 1%). In the Smart Kitchen Home Plate™ shorthand, Carrots would be (R,T2,T4,M,L).

Back to our opening claim, that Carrots are basically a fragrant root vegetable, think of anyway that you can cook Potatoes and, technically, that method will also almost always work for Carrots. While they may get the job done, every potato cooking technique may not always be the best choice, because Carrots contain less Starch. They are also notably sweeter than Potatoes, up to 5% sugar, comprised of a mixture of glucose, sucrose and fructose.

Because they contain unique fragrance molecules (mostly due to terpenes) with hints of pine, wood, oil, citrus and turpentine, Carrots have a mild, almost violet-like, bouquet that comes out when the fragmented carotene is heated. This minor Aromatic quality makes Carrots a great way to add layered flavoring to StocksStewsSoups and other preparations. Think about how chefs use a Mirepoix to create a foundation of tastes and you will get the idea. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the color pigments in orange Carrots are oil-soluble, meaning it takes Fat or Oil to release them and make them lose their “Orangey-ness” and bleed over into other ingredients. The good news is that their lively orange color holds up well with Moist Heat Methods.

In French Cuisine, dishes that are described as "à la Crécy," are dishes that are cooked with, or garnished with, Carrots. There are scores of good ways to prepare and use Nantes Carrots. If you are at a loss as to how to get started Peeling CarrotsSlicing them and then Sautéing the Carrot slices along with a dab of Whole ButterSalt and Pepper, is a simple way to jump right in.

As you get more comfortable with the Nantes Carrot, Glazing Carrots may be a good technique to try. Glazed Carrots and Caramelized Balsamic Carrots are two simple tasty ways to try Glazing Carrots for a Side Dish. Both are often garnished with Chopped Parsley for color contrast.

Carrots, of all types, are used in cuisines worldwide in Salads, Soups, Stocks and Stews, in Sauces and as a Vegetable Side Dish. Shredded and sweetened they are used in cakes in breads. For example, Grated Carrots are popular in Carrot Cake, as well as Carrot Pudding, an old English dish thought to have originated in the early 19th century.  Carrot Tops, aka Carrot Greens are also edible as a leaf vegetable.

Portion Size

Allow 2-3 oz of Nantes Carrot per person.

Pairings

AllspiceAlmondsAniseBaconBasilBay LeafBeef, Brandy, Salted ButterUnsalted ButterYogurtCeleryChervilTarragon, Chile Peppers, Dried Chile Peppers, Red Chile Peppers, Jalapeno, ChivesCilantroCinnamonCloves, Cod, Coriander, Crayfish, CreamHeavy CreamCrème FraicheCumin, Curry, Curry Leaves, DillFennel, Fennel Seeds, Fish, Garlic,GingerHazelnutsHoney, Lamb, LeeksLemons, Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, Limes, Lime Juice, Lime Zest, Lovage, Mace, Maple Syrup, Agave, Syrup, Mint, Spearmint, Peppermint, MirepoixMustardMustard Seeds, Black Mustard Seeds, Nutmeg, OilsPeanut OilMustard OilSesame OilGrapeseed OilVegetable OilOlive OilOnionsScallionsYellow OnionsRed OnionsWhite OnionsShallots, Oranges, Orange Juice, Orange Zest, ParsleyParsnips, Peas, PecansPepperBlack PepperWhite PepperPink PepperPistachiosPotatoes, Raisins, Black Raisins, White Raisins, ChickenBeefPoultryRoasted MeatsRosemary, Rum, SageSaltKosher SaltStocksWhite Chicken StockBrown Chicken StockBeef StockVeal StockSugarBrown Sugar,Raw SugarGranulated Sugar, Tamarind, Thyme, Turnips, Veal, Vegetables, Root VegetablesGreensVinaigrettesWalnuts, White Wine, Red Wine

Substitutes

Jumbo Carrots

Nutritional Value USDA
CARROTS,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 41
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
3%
Sodium 69mg
6%
Potassium 320mg
3%
Total Carbohydrate 9g
8%
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 4g
Protein 0g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Carrots are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It begins with their typically bright orange color caused by their high concentration of beta-carotene (also named from the original Latin word “carōta”), which the body converts to Vitamin A.  They also contain lesser amounts of alpha-carotene (which has been shown to help inhibit conditions that can lead to tumor growth), upsilon-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Carrots are rich in dietary fiber (mostly cellulose, with smaller proportions of hemicellulose, lignin and starch), antioxidants and minerals. In addition, a serving of Carrots provides 13% of the USRDA for Vitamin K and 11% for Vitamin B6. Carrots are about 5% Sugar. The sugars contained in Carrots include SucroseGlucose and Fructose.

In the plant kingdom, the stronger the pigment, the more nutrients and phytochemicals the plant is likely to contain.  Carrot’s many phytochemicals help slow the aging process and fight against many diseases including cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and urinary tract infections.

Contrary to popular wisdom, and the opinion of Moms everywhere, eating scads of Carrots does not allow you see perfectly in the dark.  That being said, adequate amounts of Vitamin A are linked to maintaining good vision, and inadequate amounts can lead to poor vision, any time of day.

Massive over consumption of carrots can cause carotenosis, a benign condition in which the skin turns orange.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes