My grandmother used to tell me that carrots would help me see better. She was right, and maybe if I'd listened to her I wouldn't need glasses today! This root vegetable's high beta carotene and nutrient content helps with eyesight, healthy skin, heart disease prevention, healthy teeth and gums, and a range of other benefits for the body and mind. While carrots are available all year long, they are at their peak right now in late summer/early fall.
How to choose them
Look for carrots that are firm, smooth, brightly colored, and relatively straight. Steer clear of any that are limp, rubbery, forked, or excessively cracked. In general, a larger circumference means a sweeter carrot. Some farmers sell their carrots with the green tops still attached; take the greens home and use them in salads or pesto.
How to use them
Carrots make excellent soups, side dishes and sweets. Whenever I am in midtown New York City around lunchtime, I opt for — you guessed it — 40 Carrots at Bloomingdale's. Their fantastic carrot-orange-ginger soup inspired this homemade version. I've cooked these orange-roasted carrots for Thanksgiving the past two years and it's been a huge crowd pleaser; using multi-colored carrots makes for beautiful presentation. For dessert, try this recipe for carrot cake from Clifton's in Los Angeles.
How to store them
Store carrots in the coolest part of the refrigerator. To help them last up to two weeks, minimize their moisture loss by wrapping them in a wet paper towel or putting them in a plastic bag. Make sure to keep carrots separate from fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas, including apples, pears and potatoes. Coming into contact with this gas can make the carrots taste bitter.
If you buy carrots with their green tops still attached, cut them off. The tops, too, can be stored in the fridge in a damp paper towel or plastic bag, but make sure to use them within a few days.