Today, 4 April 2013, is the 10th celebration of International Carrot Day, the day to dress in orange and celebrate the wholesome goodness of these versatile and delicious orange vegetables. I wonder whether Carrot Day being celebrated so close to Easter has anything to do with the Easter Bunny’s love of carrots?
Whether you like carrots in a meaty stew, as part of a vegetable curry, on its own in a salad, steamed and served sweet with a touch of sugar, or juiced for an invigorated drink, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy these delicious veges on Carrot Day. For a slightly more decadent celebration, you can even bake a deliciously moist carrot cake or a traditional English carrot pudding!
Did you know that the carrot is a member of the parsley family? And apparently it was originally grown for medicinal purposes (mainly for its aromatic leaves and seeds) before its edible taproot became popular as a food source. Of course carrots are a great source of beta carotene (the reason for their orange colour), that gets absorbed by the liver and converted to Vitamin A. Interestingly, eaten raw, we only absorb between 3 and 4% of the beta carotene in carrots during digestion. When the carrots are steamed, cooked or juiced, however, the absorption rate can be increased up to 10-fold.
A shortage of Vitamin A in the body can cause poor vision (night vision in particular) – a situation that can be treated and restored through Vitamin A supplementation. For this reason, it has become a popular urban legend that eating large amounts of carrots will enable you to see in the dark. Sorry to burst that bubble, but over-consumption of carrots is more likely to lead to ‘carotenosis’, a benign condition where the skin (especially the insides of the hand and feet) and the whites of the eyes, turn a shade of orange.
Because of their beta-carotene content, carrots are sometimes included in poultry-feed to deepen the colour of egg-yolks.
Carrots are also a good source of fibre and are rich in antioxidants and trace minerals. And if that’s not enough reason to grow a crop of carrots in your vege garden, it has also been suggested that carrots are good companion crops – grown intercropped with tomatoes increases tomato-production, and if left to flower, carrots attract wasps that are beneficial in killing many garden pests.
All in all, a great vegetable, and definitely worth a day of celebration.