Carrots originated in what is present day Afghanistan about 5,000 years ago as a purple root. It was then taken to the Southern Mediterranean region and evidence shows both Greeks and Romans used them. Carrots acquired their distinctive orange colour through mutations and cross pollinations across the years. The story that they were bred orange to please Dutch royalty is entirely apocryphal. Today, it is Britain’s best-loved root vegetable.
Peak season is between June and October, but they are harvested all year long through different techniques.
Nantes: This sweet carrot with a crisp texture has cylindrical straight roots that grow 12 to 17 cm long.
Chantenay: Broad shoulders and rounded tips make this carrot perfect for dipping. They have a rich, sweet flavour and a long storage life when refrigerated.
Baby: This carrot becomes very sweet when mature. It has round, cylindrical roots that are less than 12 cm long. It’s great for Asian dishes and salads, and makes a fresh snack.
Imperator: These carrots have long, tapered roots with stocky shoulders. Use in salads, stews and soups.
Banvers: Have a thick-rooted cylindrical shape, often with yellowish core; widely used in processing, and good for juicing.
Pick carrots that don’t have excessive scratches and that are firm and brightly coloured. If the tops are attached, make sure they look healthy and fresh.
Store carrots in the refrigerator, but keep them distant from apples and pears because they easily absorb odours from those fruits.
To freeze, first blanch for 5 minutes if whole or for 2 if diced or in strips. Then freeze in a vacuum sealed bag.