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carrots

The Easter Bunny came to visit a couple of weeks ago, and while he was here he ate some nice, healthy carrots. We need to follow his example, because his favorite food is actually one awesome vegetable.

A 10-year study recently completed in the Netherlands shows that carrot intake can greatly reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). We all remember our moms telling us to eat carrots to protect our eyes, but our heart? Not so much. So this study is really eye-opening (excuse the pun, I couldn’t resist).

Research participants were asked to eat fruits and vegetables from four main color categories: green, orange/yellow, red/purple, and white. Of the four categories, orange/yellow was found to be the most protective against cardiovascular disease (especially foods with deeper shades of orange).

Participants who ate at least one-fourth cup of carrots (about 2-3 baby carrots) per day had a lessened risk for CVD, and participants who ate the most (one-half to three-fourths cup per day) had a significantly lowered risk.

Carrots have always been known as a good source of antioxidants in terms of their beta-carotene content. But they also contain phytonutrients called polyacetylenes, which help inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells. Cancer, eye, and heart protection—who knew the humble carrot had all that going on?

Planting

If you are putting in a garden this summer and have never tried growing carrots, this might be the summer to give them a spin. Carrots are easy to grow from seed, so the initial expense is minimal. For your first effort, consider miniature carrots.  They have small, shallow roots that are quite sweet and grow well in soils with some clay content (that’s us, folks).

You can begin planting carrots in mid-April. Start by loosening the soil in the planting bed at least 8- 12 inches deep, rake smooth, and then sow seeds about a quarter inch deep. Seeds should be spaced approximately two inches apart. You don’t need to plant all the seeds at once; judge how many to plant by your family size. For a continuous supply of young carrots, start a new row of seeds approximately every three weeks.

Harvesting

Pull carrots when mature in size and color. Twist off the long green tops to prevent moisture loss, and use a dry vegetable brush to remove any clumps of soil. At this point, there are two rules of thumb you can follow when it comes to carrot storage.

Some “dry camp” followers say to seal the unwashed carrots tightly in a plastic bag in the coolest part refrigerator and wash just before using. The “wet camp” followers believe carrots should be washed and placed in a container with water (which should be refreshed every 4-5 days). Your choice, but just make sure they are covered because carrots begin to go limp when exposed to air.  Most varieties keep for a month in the fridge if stored properly.

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Sources:

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0013609

http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scenea765.html

 

 

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