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August Veggie of the Month: Carrots

It’s true—carrots actually can help your eyesight! These crunchy critters get their bright orange color from beta carotene, the antioxidant our bodies turn into Vitamin A. Along with helping growth, development, and immunity, Vitamin A maintains eye health.

Late to the carrot trend? No worries. The “root” of the carrot’s legacy is long.

Carrot cultivation began in Afghanistan before the year 900. The earliest carrots were purple and yellow. In the first Arabic cookbook from around 950, Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq described the carrot as:

Juicy, tender, and delicious. Poets compare it to carnelian, rubies, flames of fire, and coral reefs.

Talk about a rave review!

Orange carrots weren’t intentionally cultivated until the 1600s in the Netherlands. Farmers may have created orange carrots to celebrate William of Orange, the Dutch leader freeing the country from Spanish control. Even though the historical accuracy of the story is debatable, the legacy and health benefits of carrots sure aren’t.

Did you know…

  • Carrots are full of complex flavors. They’re sweet, fruity, and sometimes piney.
  • Because carrots are great sources of fiber, they benefit healthy digestion and even heart health.
  • The Vitamin B6 in carrots keeps your energy levels up.
  • Carrots retain their nutritional value even when they’re cooked. Your body is able to use more of the nutrients in cooked carrots because cooking them releases beta carotene.
  • The Dakota name for wild carrots is “Pangi zizi.” Tribes would take the lead from rabbits to track down carrots on the plains.
  • The darker orange a carrot is, the more beta carotene it has. To get the most bang for your buck, choose the carrots in the deepest shades of orange.
  • You can store carrots for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.

7 ways to eat more carrots

  1. Get up and go. Chomp down on raw carrots plain. Dip them in hummus, peanut butter, or mustard for additional zip.
  2. Toss them up. Mix carrots into salads for a crunchy—and colorful—compliment.
  3. Stew on it. Take your favorite fall soups to a lush new level.
  4. Blend in. Use shredded or pureed carrots in any fruit or veggie-based smoothie for an easy nutritional boost.
  5. Add an unexpected zing. Roast carrots with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then sprinkle them with orange zest, freshly squeezed orange juice, chili powder, or honey for a medley of tastes.
  6. Make them sizzle. Carrots will give your stir fry a crisp snap.
  7. Create surprising sweetness. Let vegetables sneakily take center stage at dessert with carrot cake or muffins.

Sources: SDSU Extension, Pick It! Try It! Preserve It!, Healthline, How Stuff Works, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County, Eat Fresh

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!