Carrots - Great for the Eyes!
Daucus carrota 'Rainbow Mix'
Over the last few months I have written about coloured vegetables and their benefits. It is important that our balanced diet includes a balance of colours as well we a good range of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. So perhaps it should be "meat and three colours". It is all about balance and variety.
Di and I love our vegetables, indeed we love all our food and find the different flavours from the different colours most enjoyable. Admittedly many years ago we couldn't perceive these subtle changes in flavour. However after a few years of moderate eating with a strong reduction in or intake of salt, sugars, MSG and fats and we have regained our taste buds.
We now enjoy most foods and when we don't it is usually a dislike for a particular flavour. We are never sure why we do or so not like a flavour abut I feel it has a lot to do with our child hood and when we first tasted the particular taste.
It is interesting watching they pattern of what a child 'likes' and 'doesn't like. So much seems to depend on the mood of the child when they first encounter a particular flavour group and the reaction of those around them to their response. I do believe that we are not born with a 'like' or 'dislike' for a particular flavour. So it must all be learned or observed.
Carrots are a real funny one. They are not a vegetable the kids generally dislike. Is it because the colour is normally pleasing to the eye? Is it because they taste nice? Perhaps (and I believe most likely) it is a vegetable that is really hard to cook badly. The worst you can do with a carrot is boil the guts out of it until all you have is mush but this doesn't make them taste bad. Compare this with so many of the Brassicas where overcooking makes them bitter and unpleasant.
If it is the colour then which colour is it? In Australia (and most of the western world) we eat orange carrots but they haven't always been orange. The original carrot Daucus carrota sativus is thought to have originated in central western Asia around Afghanistan. They has a branched root system with a slightly bitter flavour and were usually purple or pale yellow. There are fossil records of the wold form going back many thousands of years but this is a different species. It is quite probable that over time, especially since food plants started moving around the globe there has been some crossing between the two species.
The humble carrot has had a long history and probably made its way into Europe around the tenth or eleventh century. Like most other cultivated plants of the time the propagation was from naturally occurring seed. This generated many forms in the marketplace. The popularity of these, like most things of colour, was determined by the fashion of the time.
There is no reason to suspect that shoppers of medieval times were much different than those of the 21st century. What looked different and popular amongst the wealthy quickly became popular amongst the masses. It is said that round the 17th century the orange carrot was bred to celebrate the Dutch leader, William of Orange. However there are numerous recordings of it being around 100 years earlier. What is more likely is that in celebration of the House of Orange people went looking for orange items and chose to buy the orange carrots. This made a demand pressure on the supply chain which resulted in more farmers growing the orange cultivars in preference to the purple and yellow.
Te purple carrot has higher concentrations of that trendy antioxidant 'anthyocyanin' which makes it slightly more healthy for modern day humans. Currently purple vegetables are quite fashionable and it is now quite easy to find shops selling what is an ancient but modern vegetable, the purple carrot. Give it a go. Kids will love it, trendy foodies will like the colour and it is good for you.
T o finish off some quotes from an article my father ran in Australian Horticulture in 1981. It was called " Carrots Kill". This is a serious matter as it was statistically proven that they are a dangerous vegetable. An analysis of all plane accidents in 1980 showed that nearly 80% of those killed ate carrots in the previous three days. Over 69% of all juvenile delinquents ate carrots during their formative years of 2-5. In 1981 they also examined the eating habits of people in several retirement homes. 75% of those born in prior to world war one and who ate carrots had poor vision, deteriorating hearing and were prone to bone fractures. 100% of those who ate carrots prior to 1900 were dead, dying or showing symptoms of failing health. To substantiate the fact that it was carrots causing these problems they investigated the effects of eating orchid petal soup. They failed to find one child who ate this soup and went on to become a juvenile delinquent. They found no record of anyone eating this soup prior to 1920 who was showing any signs of aging or loss of vision or hearing. They examined the stomach contents of a number of car crash victims and couldn't find one who had eaten orchid petal soup in the preceding 72 hours.
So in conclusion carrots kill and orchid petal soup does not.
After reading this, you are still game to eat carrots try this delightful salad. Take two medium orange carrots, one purple carrot a handful of sultanas and four sprigs of fresh mint. Grate the carrot and finely chop the mint, mix with the sultanas and toss in some good quality virgin olive oil then serve as a side salad.