It seems to be carrot season, all year round. But they are especially good in spring. And the green tops are on….
We love buying carrots with their green tops still on, and the tops are a great indicator of their freshness. If the greens are still attached when you buy (or harvest….), take the tops off before storing. This stops the greens from drawing out moisture and nutrients from the roots. Use the green tops as soon as possible, as they are fragile and quickly wilt. They can be chopped and added into raw salads. And we have an idea for a delicious carrot top pesto, with walnut base. More about that later.
Purple, red, yellow and white - before orange
We also love using multi-coloured carrots. Carrots are believed to have first been cultivated, in the area now known as Afghanistan, thousands of years ago, as a small purple or yellow root. In fact purple, red, yellow and white carrots were grown long before the appearance of the now usual orange carrot. We have read that Moors brought a purple root from North Africa to Spain around the 12th century. The orange carrot was then developed and stabilised by Dutch growers in the 16th/17th centuries - and from there to the rest of Europe (and, in time, on to New Zealand).
And now there is a move, around the world, back to breeding a range of coloured carrots: purple, red, yellow, and creamy white. It's great to see them at our local farmers’ markets. And we have sourced coloured carrot seeds for spring planting at home.
A year-round addition
Regardless of whether they can help us see better (for more on this, see our earlier story here), carrots are a delicious addition to New Zealand tables. They can be sown and grown, year around, through much of New Zealand. Our research tells us that growers plant their organic carrots, in some parts of New Zealand, pre-winter - and in spring - to give the earliest possible harvest time in November. And they are then harvested from November to March.
We think of carrots as summer/autumn vegetables, and love them grated in raw salads (with beetroot and mint....). But, as the weather cools, our Southland connections take us to mashed carrot and swede, with lots of butter and cracked pepper (carrot sweetens swede).
Exotic carrot tops - as fashion decoration
Thinking back to the carrots’ travels, it’s easy to understand that they were once considered a novelty. We have read that carrots were thought to be so exotic in Elizabethan England that the green carrot tops were worn as fashion decoration, on hats and vests, in place of feathers. We’re not exactly suggesting that.
But, for a delicious year-round addition using carrots and their green tops, make sure you try that carrot top pesto we mentioned earlier - click here.