According to the World Carrot Museum, the carrot is the world’s second most popular vegetable, after the potato. A versatile vegetable, the carrot can be enjoyed raw or cooked and boasts several important nutrients.
Nutrient-packed. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) nutrient database lists one cup of raw chopped carrots as having only 52 calories, proof that carrots are a low-calorie treat. Even with so few calories, this serving is packed with vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, choline, iron and even 42 milligrams of calcium. Carrots are rich in dietary fiber, beta carotene and vitamin A, as well.
Health benefits. Vitamin A is essential for healthy vision, bone growth and overall cell health, reports the National Institutes of Health. With more than 20,000 micrograms of vitamin A in every cup of raw carrots, munching on carrots can pack a nutritional punch. In addition, the beta carotene in carrots may help reduce the risks of certain cancers.
Types of carrots. In the United States, the Imperator carrot is the most common. It’s long and thin in comparison to the short, stubby Chantenay or Danvers varieties, more frequently eaten in other countries. Most carrots available in the United States are the orange variety, but other colors can be found, including white and purple. The Beta Sweet carrot has a maroon and orange color. It was introduced by Dr. Leonard Pike of Texas A&M University in the early 1990s.
Selecting and storing. Carrots are a cold-season crop but can be found in grocery stores year-round. Look for carrots that are firm to the touch. Never buy any carrots that feel limp or rubbery. Dole.com suggests removing the tops before placing the carrots in the refrigerator. The vegetable can be stored for about two weeks, if refrigerated. Be sure not to store your carrots near foods that emit ethylene gas, such as apples, because the gas can make the carrots take on a bitter flavor.
Then and now. Carrots are an ancient vegetable, with a history tracing back as many as 2,000 years. Today, several million tons of carrots are grown, processed and eaten throughout the world, with China being the largest producer, followed by Russia and then the United States. California produces about 60 percent of the United States’ carrot crop, according to the USDA.
Celebrating the carrot. Several cities and countries celebrate April 4 as International Carrot Day, including Bradford, Ontario; Creances, France; Aarau, Switzerland; and Holtville, California. Holtville considers itself the “Carrot Capital of the World” and hosts an annual Carrot Festival each year.