By Erika Freeman, September/October 2009
When my mother told my brother that carrots were good for his eyes, he thought he had found the secret to seeing in the dark. He wasn’t the first to think that carrots had super powers. The Greeks thought carrots were the secret to great sex. And the vegetable’s amorous reputation followed it to Rome, where the emperor Caligula fed nothing but carrot dishes to the Roman Senate so he could watch them “rut like wild beasts.”
Unfortunately for the Roman Senate, carrots’ powers in the bedroom have yet to be proven. On the other hand, it appears that my brother was on the right track. The pigment that makes carrots orange—beta carotene—is the same compound the body converts to vitamin A, a vitamin essential for vision, healthy skin and the immune system.
These carrot side dishes will help you get your fill of vitamin A and give your plate a splash of color. Try roasted or stir-fried carrots with spicy flavors, shred them into a raw slaw dressed with a slightly sweet citrus vinaigrette or make a velvety puree with potatoes and give it a special touch with a hazelnut-olive topping. Visit your farmstand for a fistful of carrots. Who knows—you might be the first to prove my brother (or better yet, Caligula) right.
At the market: Look for brightly colored, firm carrots without any gray, white or desiccated residue on the skin. Those with the greens still attached are usually the freshest.
Storage: Refrigerate in a plastic bag for 3 to 4 weeks.
Prep: Peel or scrub well; remove greens.
Did you know? Carrots weren’t always orange—and many farmers are bringing back nontraditional colors like purple, red and white.