The carrot is a plant with a thick, fleshy, deeply colored root, which grows underground, and feathery green leaves that emerge above ground. It is known scientifically as Daucus carota, a name that can be traced back to ancient Roman writings of the 3rd century. Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family, named after the umbrella like flower clusters that plants in this family produce. As such, carrots are related to parsnips, fennel caraway, cumin and dill. There are over 100 different varieties that vary in size and color. Carrots can be as small as two inches or as long as three feet, ranging in diameter from one-half of an inch to over two inches. Carrots are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds, and the richest vegetable source of the pro-vitamin A carotenes. Carrots’ antioxidant compounds help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer and also promote good vision, especially night vision.
The trick to preserving the freshness of carrot roots is to minimize the amount of moisture they lose. To do this promptly remove their greens and make sure to store them in the coolest part of the refrigerator wrapped in a paper towel and placed inside a plastic bag; the paper towel will reduce the amount of condensation that is able to form. They should be able to keep fresh for about two weeks. Carrots should also be stored away from apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas since it will cause them to become bitter.
Wash carrot roots and gently scrub them with a vegetable brush right before eating. Unless the carrots are old, thick or not grown organically, it is not necessary to peel them. If the stem end is green, it should be cut away as it will be bitter. Depending upon the recipe or your personal preference, carrots can be left whole or julienned, grated, shredded or sliced into sticks or rounds. The greens are NOT eatable.