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!

Nothing like a crop of fresh, healthy carrots straight from the vege patch.(© All Rights Reserved)
Nothing like a crop of fresh, healthy carrots straight from the vege patch.
(© All Rights Reserved)

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.

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for this. You’re oversimplifying the Vitamin A story, though. I’ve blogged about dietary sources of carotene, therefore of Vitamin A. Sources include carrots as you say. They also include Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potatoes (selectively bred. being promoted in sub-Saharan Africa) and Golden Rice (genetically modified, may soon be approved for growing in Asia). They also include green leafy vegetables. Helen Keller International promotes Vitamin A from these plant sources, and also from supplementation (vitamin drops).

    As I write this comment, it’s late evening on 3rd March in my time zone. Tomorrow I’ll reblog your excellent post about carrots.

      1. You’re welcome. I’ve got interested in the Vitamin A story and, at risk of being rude to you, I’m going to link to some of my blog posts about it when reblogging yours.

  2. Reblogged this on Science on the Land and commented:
    argylesock says… I didn’t know about International Carrot Day http://www.carrotday.com/ until my fellow blogger ScienceLens wrote about it here. If I’d known, I still wouldn’t have hesitated to name the carrot as ‘Crop of the Month’ two months ago http://argylesock.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/crop-of-the-month-carrot/ Here in Britain, the carrot is the 2nd most popular vegetable after the potato. In that sense every day is carrot day! As discussed with ScienceLens here, vegetables containing beta-carotene are important in a balanced diet to protect the eyes http://argylesock.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/nourishing-people-helen-keller-international/ It’s true that a huge carrot binge wouldn’t do you any good, but it’s healthy to eat a regular intake of carrots or other vegetables rich in beta-carotene. And yes, carrots are delicious.

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