Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Carrot is a Carrot…NOT!!!

      A number of years ago when I just started Growing Harmony Farm, (1997) I had an abundance of late fall carrots. (Boleros are a super sweet nutrient dense carrot harvested in the fall. The warm days and cold nights causes the starches to turn to sugars up here in the North Country causing them to turn into what seems like a totally different vegetable, super sweet, crisp and translucent) I didn’t have the market built up and reputation like I do now after all, those were the early days before “local” food became such an phenomenon. So I thought well maybe I’ll try the local HyVee grocery store to see if they might be interested. I was able to talk with the assistant produce manager. He didn’t seem all that excited but agreed to buy 10 pounds. I suggested he try one for taste. He replied, “A carrot is a carrot.” I about flipped but in reality in almost all grocery stores a “carrot is a carrot”. Most carrots in grocery stores are just one or two types of carrots called Imperators. They are long cylinders that have a woody inner core. They have to be woody in order for commercial growers to harvest them mechanically.
      That is the advantage that I have over large commercial operations. One, I live in the north that produces such sweet carrots and two I grow mostly Nantes type carrots are do have a core like all carrots do but they tend to be crisper and almost coreless. They are so crisp that they would break up if harvested mechanically. Mine are all harvested by hand. The most ever in a season was 7500 lbs! Most years were between 4,000-5,500 lbs. of carrots.
      One would think that with a nick-name like “The Carrot King” I would plan on promoting lots of recipes with carrots in them or that featured carrots. Ok I am going to say this up-front. I am a carrot SNOB! I have always said that the best way to enjoy my carrots is to eat them plain and enjoy their sweetness, crispness and classic carrot flavor (There is a chemical class called terpinoids that give carrots some of their flavor. That is why some varieties like Napoli, their flavor is very mild, almost bland while others are very strong and bitter.  The stronger the flavor the more terpinoids there are.) On Wed. Nov. 27th the Des Moines Register featured a Roasted Carrot recipe that I decided to try. They have been featuring simple 4-ingredient recipes this last month. So out of all the carrot recipes that I have tried in the pas,t this one far surpassed all the others with quality and taste.

      Here is the recipe:
1.     Wash and peel a pound of carrots. Cut them any way you want, just try to keep them roughly the same size so they roast evenly. I quartered mine.
2.     Peel and cut two medium sweet onions into roughly the same size pieces as the carrots. Put the carrots and onions on a cookie sheet or other baking pan.
3.     Whisk together two tablespoons olive oil and two tablespoons honey. Drizzle over the carrots and onions. Sprinkle the carrots and onions with dried thyme, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

4.     Bake at 450 F for 15 minutes. Stir them with spatula and bake for another 10-15 minutes until carrots are fork tender. The larger the carrots are cut, the longer they will take to roast.

The above picture includes roasted sweet potatoes and grilled lamb chops. YUM, YUM!

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