Rainbow Carrots and Other Non-Orange Varieties - Freezing Your Crop to Make the Most of Them
What Besides Orange?
My mother read the "Little House" books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, to my siblings and I when we were young. Naturally, we loved them. We sewed quilts for our dolls. We tried to teach our calves to pull sleds, like Almanzo. We tried making butter.
While trying this exercise (which was successful), we grated an orange carrot, just like Ma, and used it to color very white goat butter.
As an adult, I read the books to my husband, and while contemplating the butter making part in Little House in the Big Woods, I wondered, "What other color of carrots are there, besides orange? Why did Laura specify an orange carrot?"
A Rainbow of Carrots!
Well, I found out.
(Here is the part where all you people who aren't from the U.S. can laugh at my ignorance.)
Having always kept a garden, and having always been enamored by strange and colorful plants, it was a natural quest.
It seems that ancient carrots, from the Middle East, came in primarily purple or yellow, and that orange carrots are a rather new invention. The enterprising Dutch developed them in the 16th and 17th centuries.
As soon as I found out I could grow something besides orange, I started right in, and have been tinkering with them for a few seasons.
Harvesting Your Carrots
Unlike typical orange carrots, rainbow carrots tend to go woody fast. So watch them carefully in the garden, and dig them as soon as they seem big enough. Of course, like all root crops, they prefer lose, sandy soil in which to expand and mature. But once they are mature, get them out of the heat!
They do not seem to be able to overwinter well, and don't store as nicely in cellar conditions as do hardy orange carrots.
Freezing Carrots, Step-by-Step
Preparing Your Carrots for Freezing
The best method for keeping your carrots is to freeze them. Of course, a few will keep nicely for some while in your refrigerator crisper, but rainbow carrots are so good, you'll want to plan for enough to use all year.
Canning tends to make carrots mushy, and they lose some of their savor.
So freezing is the answer.
Begin by scrubbing the carrots gently, but thoroughly, under running water with a vegetable brush.
Then chop off the root ends and the tops.
Peel if desired (some of the colors will lose some of their vibrancy, as the skins are the brightest), then cut in slices.
Next, you'll want to blanch the carrots.
Proceed this way: Have a saucepan of water heating, and run a sinkful of plain, cold water. Be sure your sink is very clean! As soon as the water boils, put in some carrot slices, and watch to see when the pot returns to a boil. As soon as it has regained its boil, begin timing 3 minutes. As soon as the three minutes are up, scoop out the carrots with a slotted spoon, and place them in the sink of cold water.
Repeat with all remaining carrots.
Now they are blanched.
Blanching does three major things. One, it "sets" the color of the carrots, Two, it makes them easier to cook later, and Three, it preserves flavor.
Now, the carrots are ready to bag.
Label quart bags - carefully and legibly - with the exact contents, and the date. Put in as many carrots as you think you will need in an average meal, seal, and freeze!
What Rainbow Carrots are Especially Good For
You can use rainbow carrots any way you would use regular carrots, but they are especially nice for chicken pot pies and other casseroles, and snacking raw. Another favorite of mine is a vegetable bake, with beets and potato wedges, onions and sometimes green beans.
To use this way, generously coat the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil, and sprinkle in some salt and herbs, if you like. Quarter the beets, slice the carrots into sticks, slice the onions or cut them into wedges, cut the potatoes in wedges, and arrange all in groups within the pan. Cover all vegetables to coat with oil. Cover with foil, and bake in a moderate (350* F.) oven until all the vegetables are tender.
Each color of carrot tastes a bit different. The whites are strong, a bit wild and almost spicy; the yellows are sweet and mellow; the reds are lively, but not overbearing; and the purples are earthy.
A World of Carrots, Beautiful, Useful, and Tasty
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