Eastern Carrots
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Eastern Carrots, also called “Asian” Carrots, are one of the two main types of Carrots grown in the world today. As the name implies, Eastern Carrots are grown mostly in Russia, Asian and Middle Eastern countries.  Modern Eastern/Asian Carrots are descended from the original, purple Wild Carrots that grew naturally in Central Asia and Afghanistan. In fact, they still grow the purple, almost wild carrots in Afghanistan. Purple Eastern Carrots were introduced to the west around the 10th Century. In its new home in the Mediterranean the Carrot mutated and the first yellow one appeared around the 12th century (white Carrots are probably also the result of mutation).

Because of this history, the Eastern Carrots of today come in purple varieties and yellow varieties. Essentially, the range of colored skins, from reddish-purple, to purple-black to yellow, sit atop a yellow internal core. Eastern Carrots also tend to have branching, interconnected taproots. The most important thing for westerners to know about them is that Eastern Carrots do not contain Beta-Carotene like the Western Carrot that we are likely most familiar with.

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 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.

Availability

Most Carrots are available all year long through a combination of sourcing from different regions of the country and preservation of Carrots in cold storage. Eastern Carrots are harder to find in the west though they are making a comeback at Farmer’s Markets. 

Cultivation

Carrots grow from seeds and should be planted in the early spring for the late Spring harvest. They are not the fastest growers and take an average of 60 to 75 days to reach full maturity. True Baby Carrots and some small round types (for example Orbit and Thumbelina or Thumbeline) require a little less time, between 50 and 60 days to grow.

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 Carrots yourself, most types do well in sandy soil 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.

If your soil is rocky or clay-like, you are better off growing small round varieties or true Baby Carrots, which don’t need to reach as deep into the soil with their taproots.  These smaller types of Carrots also can be grown successfully in pots.

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

Nowadays Eastern/Asian Carrots are grown mostly in Russia, Asian and Middle Eastern countries but lately Eastern Carrots, particularly the purple variants, have been gaining popularity in Western Europe (especially Spain) and America. The vibrant color may have something to do with its appeal, but their sweetness and healthy pigmentation (they contain anthocyanin, a pigmentation that is rich in antioxidants and other health-promoting phytochemicals and causes red, blue and purple coloration in many types of plants) can’t be ruled out.  But their dark maroon/purple coloration can also be a hard sell in the West.  Some Westerners simply prefer their Carrot flavor in the comfortable orange color.

Varieties

The two main varieties of Eastern Carrots are the Yellow Eastern Carrot and the Purple Eastern Carrot.

Purchasing

Look for 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. Different varieties of Eastern Carrots have different flavor profiles, textures, colors, sizes, etc.

White Carrots have no pigments but tend to be the most aromatic.

Storage

Eastern Carrots are best stored wrapped in a plastic bag or in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. 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.

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.

Culinary Uses

The short story on the Culinary Uses of Eastern 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™ 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 Slicing, Dicing, Grating, 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 Stocks, Stews, Soups and other preparations. Think about how chefs use a Mirepoix to create a foundation of tastes and you will get the idea. 

Purple Eastern Carrots are colored by anthocyanin, a water-soluble pigment. This means that they will easily lose their color and bleed into other ingredients in your dish if Moist Heat Methods (Stewing, Boiling, Braising, etc.) are used to cook Purple Carrots. Shorter cook times yield less bleeding and better purple color.

There are scores of good ways to prepare and use Carrots. If you are at a loss as to how to get started Peeling Carrots, Slicing them and then Sautéing the Carrot slices along with a dab of Whole Butter, Salt and Pepper, is a simple way to jump right in.

As you get more comfortable with the 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.

In Asia, shredded and sweetened Carrots are use in Rice dishes. In India, they cook down Carrots to make a kind of vegetable fudge.

Portion Size

Allow 2-3 oz of Eastern Carrots per person.

Pairings

AllspiceAlmondsAniseBaconBasilBay LeafBeef, Brandy, Salted ButterUnsalted ButterYogurtCeleryChervil,Tarragon, 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, Oils,Peanut 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 SugarRaw SugarGranulated Sugar, Tamarind, Thyme, Turnips, Veal, Vegetables, Root VegetablesGreensVinaigrettesWalnuts, White Wine, Red Wine

Substitutes

ParsnipTurnip

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 generally one of the healthiest foods you can eat.  This is principally because of the Beta Carotene that give them their signature orange color. Eastern Carrots on the other hand are yellow or purple. They do not contain Beta Carotene so most of the basic benefits of Carrots (Western Carrots) do not apply.

Eastern Carrots do contain lutein, zeaxanthin and some other healthful pigments. In the plant kingdom, the stronger the pigment, the more nutrients and phytochemicals the plant is likely to contain. They are also rich in Dietary Fiber (mostly cellulose, with smaller proportions of hemicellulose, lignin and starch), antioxidants and minerals. Eastern Carrots are about 5% Sugar. The sugars contained in Carrots include Sucrose, Glucose and Fructose.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes