Some time ago I developed a snack habit of eating an apple after lunch every day. But lately the availability of local apples that have been keeping cool in storage has dwindled and my snack routine was in trouble. I am in staunch opposition to eating apples from other parts of the country, let alone other parts of the world, so I didn’t really have a choice. I had to give up apples until autumn. Enter the carrot. [cue joyous song about carrots sung in unison by 1000 bearded men]
Back when I was an idiot, I considered raw carrots as something I would only use when impersonating cartoon rabbits. I figured anyone who actually ate raw carrots as a snack was on an unpleasant diet. To me they were a chore and I dismissed them entirely. I don’t think I ate more than one or two raw carrots total in the first 30 years of my life.
Then Amy and I signed up for an organic winter CSA share and we found ourselves having lots of carrots to work through. We shredded them into our tomato sauce and tucked them into a pad thai recipe and cooked them into basically every other meal we prepared. I grew to love carrots–as an ingredient, anyway.
Enter our daughter. At just 2 and a half, she showed a great love for raw carrots. A great snack for an unsuspecting kid, huh? She would actually sneak them out of the fridge or off the counter and chow down. Whether she actually finished them and whether she left the stumpy remains in locations we knew about was another story. But she was really into carrots!
I was impressed and realized she might know something I don’t. When the carrots in our garden started needing thinning, I grabbed a few for a snack. And there was an explosion in my mouth and in my mind. The aroma! The tender crunch! The gentle moisture! I realized a few things at once with these homegrown carrots. First was that there are a variety of carrots out there, well beyond the ones that are the right size and color for selling in bags at a grocery store. Second was that a freshly dug carrot has sort of become a rare treat in our culture.
What is the soonest you’ve tasted a carrot after it has been unearthed? If you grow your own or buy produce from a local farm, it’s easy to know. How many days old are the carrots in the store?
When a carrot is fresh, it is at its most juicy. Its texture is an amazing bridge between crunchy and tender which is truly enjoyable to bite into. I crave that sensation on my teeth. It has not begun to dry or harden as can happen in normal storage and certainly hasn’t gone soft like it can in the crisper. The aroma will never be as strong, drifting up your nostrils and around your gums, a distillation of the essence of gardening.
Perhaps my favorite thing about home grown carrots is that the taste, size, and texture changes as the weeks go on. We started with smaller, thinned carrots, which tasted earthy and were very tender, but the sweetness was subtle. As we thinned more every few days, they were coming up bigger, brighter, and crunchier. Sweeter. Aromatic.
Right now in late August, the carrots we are pulling are the best carrots I’ve ever had. I take them with me on a walk after I eat lunch at work. I don’t cut them into easy to manage pieces, I just chow down. People see me and I wonder what they think.
“The apple guy is carrot guy now. What a geek.”
“I could hear that maniac crunching from half a mile away.”
“Why is that fella smiling so much? Oh right, carrots are getting really good right now!!!”
Who knows. I really do feel self conscious with the crunching, but you know what? It’s not just about snacking or nutrition anymore. It’s who I am! It’s my lifestyle!
Farmer’s Note: The carrot described in this entry is the popular Danvers variety, which we have had good luck with and could go on and on about the wonderful aroma. You can learn more at High Mowing Seeds’ page on it by clicking here.