How to grow and prepare carrots

A chef and a gardener team up to give advice on growing and cooking carrots. Included is an easy recipe for roasted carrots with a sweet and tangy dressing.

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    Roasting is an easy way to prepare carrots, and a sweet-tangy honey-orange dressing will enhance their flavor. Then garnish with a few of the raw tops for a springlike appearance.
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Carrots are easy to grow in the cool days of spring.

I (Anne) was surprised to learn that wild carrots were originally purple, not orange. For fun, grow purple, yellow, or white carrots. You might want to try the All-America Selections award-winning Purple Haze carrot. The award means it was grown as a trial in many parts of the US and Cananda and is considered easy to grow in most areas of the country.

Planting advice

Loose soil is key for growing carrots, so they can extend their roots deep into the ground. If you don’t have the perfect carrot soil, don’t be discouraged. Use a large pot filled with good soil, deep enough to allow the carrot roots to grow straight and long. Sprinkle the carrot seed on top and filter loose soil over the seed.

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Either in the ground or in a container, be sure to keep the soil moist with even watering. Using mulch over the bed will help keep down weeds and hold moisture in the soil.

If you are working with clay or rocks in your soil, you can plant the short, round carrots. Paris Market is a round heirloom. The heirloom Danvers also does well in clay. Scarlet Nantes is an old standby from gardens and markets past.

Since carrot seeds are slow to come up, plant radish seeds, which fairly jump out of the ground, in the same row with the carrot seed. These will mark your row so you know where the carrots are and help to thin the carrots as you pull the radishes. The carrots should be thinned to two to four inches apart in rows 1-1/2 to 2 feet apart. Plant the seed one-fourth to one-half inch deep.

Depending on the variety and the vagaries of early spring weather, you can expect to harvest carrots in 50 to 100 days. Be sure to keep the soil loosened and free of weeds by hoeing along the row.

When you have harvested those sweet roots, do try Chef Linda’s recipe. The recipe is perfect for a lazy day -- new, different, and easy.

Oven-Roasted Carrots With Honey-Orange Dressing

About all I (Linda) can say is, darn, they are really good, if I do say so myself. After I finished photographing them, I ate them all. ALL!

When Anne and I first talked about doing carrots for this blog post, I thought about carrots in pot roast, carrot salad, and the usual, but I decided that something new and fresh was in order. So I came up with the idea of roasting the carrots and then adding a dressing.

I used part of a dressing recipe that I usually make for a fruit salad. It worked perfectly for the fresh carrots. The sweetness of the honey enhances the sweetness of the carrots.

If you decide not to use the dressing on the carrots, just chop a few of the leaves and add them over the roasted carrots.

Hope you will enjoy the recipe. It’s so easy but has a lot of flavor.

Oven-Roasted Carrots

8 fresh carrots with stems and leaves
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the carrots from the stems leaving about one-half inch of the stems on the carrots. Wash several of the stems with leaves to use for garnish and set aside to dry. Brush the carrots clean under running water and dry them.

Place the carrots on a foil-lined baking sheet. Pour a small amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper over the carrots. Rub in the oil mixture until the carrots are coated.

Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the carrots. You want to take them out of the oven when they are fork tender at the thickest part. Remove to a serving plate or platter and pour dressing over. Serves 4

Honey-Orange Dressing

1 tablespoon warm honey
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon orange zest, or zest of 1 orange

Mix all ingredients together and pour over the roasted carrots. Place the washed stems and leaves at the top of the carrots for presentation. Serve.

[Editor's note: Previous articles in this series include growing and cooking asparagus, beets, strawberries, and tomatoes.]

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Linda Weiss and Anne Moore, who blog at Diggin' It about food and gardening, met while Linda was the food editor and Anne was the garden editor for South Carolina Homes & Gardens magazine. They now write articles for the ETV GardenSMART television show website, where Anne is the horticulture editor, gardening consultant, and e-newsletter editor. Anne has written for magazines and newspapers. She is a member of and a recipient of a Silver Award for magazine writing from the Garden Writers Association. Linda is a personal chef. She attended Le Cordon Bleu of Paris’ catering program, has appeared as a guest chef on numerous television shows, has been a culinary educator for 10 years, and a food writer for a number of magazines. She is a professional member of The James Beard Foundation and the Southern Foodways Alliance. She has written a cookbook, "Memories From Home, Cooking with Family and Friends."

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