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Carrots are a Consistent Friend

By James Parker, February 15, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by James Parker
Unlike some vegetables, carrots don’t usually give me much trouble in my garden. I always sprinkle a few seeds randomly around my garden, mainly because I love to see my kids’ faces when we dig them up. As with potatoes, carrot harvesting is like a treasure hunt! Most are of a uniform size and shape but occasionally we get a giant or oddly shaped specimen that delights my children (and me). Home carrot gardening is pretty simple; you just make sure you have deep sandy soil, weed and feed occasionally, and chances are your crop will come in just fine. Organic carrot forecasting at work is also relatively simple year after year as they are a staple for a natural foods store, and the supply and sales are generally very steady and consistent. Our business in carrots is so consistent that they are often used as an anchor for trucks. We will take amounts we are ordering up or down to make sure we are keeping trucks full. Carrots are so reliable that when we have a winter like this one — where ground temperatures are low and conditions are wet — the trouble with carrot production comes as something of a shock to everyone. Growing and harvesting root vegetables like carrots requires some pretty exacting soil conditions. Ground that is too cold or wet will slow growth and increase the likelihood of disease. Harvesting in wet or overly cold conditions can also be a muddy experience – increasing cleaning costs and mechanical damage, which lowers premium yields. Fortunately, there are many uses for carrots that don’t pass muster as full sized loose or bunched with tops — like turning them into juice or whole peeled “baby sized” carrots. Even so, persistent cold and wet weather also reduces total yield in the areas of the U.S. that are warm (and dry) enough to grow carrots in the winter. It is something of a mystery where carrots originated, but most experts agree they have been a cultivated plant for a very long time. Grown as both a food and medicinal plant, carrots are a part of the human diet virtually everywhere and come in a dizzying variety of shapes, colors and sizes. The ability to store carrots for an extended period of time has also made them a favorite crop in areas with short growing seasons. While California is the largest producer of organically grown carrots for fresh consumption in the U.S., smaller seasonal producers are virtually everywhere. Carrots are a great cash crop for small farms because even though growing conditions need to be exacting, harvest dates do not. This means a grower can hold excess product in the ground and match up supply with demand. In my kitchen, carrots are almost always in the fridge — either as snacks for the kids or as an ingredient in soup, stews or stock. My current favorite place for carrots is in a simple lentil recipe: Olive oil 1 finely chopped white or yellow onion (medium) ½ cup finely chopped carrots 1 bay leaf 24 oz chicken or vegetable broth 1 pound green lentils 1 14-oz can chopped or stewed tomatoes Salt and pepper to taste In a large sauce pan or stock pot, heat a bit of olive oil and add the chopped onions. Sauté until soft and translucent. Add the carrots, bay leaf, chicken broth and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils are soft (about 40 minutes for green). Add tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes longer. Season to taste and serve over rice. I think carrots are like someone you can always depend on to pick you up at the airport or feed your cat while you are away. You can always count on them as a snack or to add something to a meal. A consistent friend that is really no bother and is always there when you need them.
Category: Produce

 

9 Comments

Comments

Per says ...
Regrettably, after shopping exclusively at Wholefoods for years, I will be ending my purchases there. I am fed up with the 90% Mexican imported produce that has proven test after test to contain absurd amounts of toxins and pesticides (some that are forbidden in the US). It appears Whole Foods has chosen the profit path instead of buying local California produce.. Hello Ewehon..Here I come!
02/20/2011 10:02:21 AM CST
Per says ...
James...I beg to differ with your reply. As a California native, I know a thing or two about fresh produce. FYI, California is the largest producer of fresh produce year round in the entire world. Whole Foods' excuse for offering Mexican produce is not quite the truth, it is more of a direct result of NAFTA...and CHEAP produce. Please name one vegetable that can not be found year round (produced) in California. Furthermore, why (except for cheap shipper profit) would I shop from a "supplier" that imports from Mexico (Fresh 101, means an increase loss of freshness via the extra shipping distance) when I can have it truly fresh from California. I stand by my claim of poor oversight in Mexico, and am more than willing to provide true (consumer backed)researched to prove it. Whole Foods DOES NOT buy locally year round! One has only to go to a local Fresh Market on a Sunday to see that EVERYTHING is available to local Angelenos...year round. I now shop where the produce comes from California or the USA. Thanks!
03/11/2011 7:10:27 PM CST
Flamingogurl says ...
I love dipping carrots in red wine vinegar or rice vinegar - great low-calorie & healthy snack :-)
02/16/2011 4:27:31 PM CST
SusieBeeOnMaui (Eat Little, Eat Big) says ...
Favorite uses for carrots-dilled as a side dish and in soup. Here is rich and creamy carrot soup: http://eatlittleeatbig.blogspot.com/2010/09/rich-and-creamy-carrot-soup.html
02/16/2011 1:17:57 PM CST
parkerj says ...
Hi Per, I regret that you are no longer shopping at Whole Foods- I am also sorry to say your comments are simply not true. The percentage of import product sold at Whole Foods certainly increases during the winter but the amount produced in Mexico (or all import countries combined for that matter) is nowhere near 90% of our mix. Additionally, most of the Mexican grower/ shippers we buy from are actually US companies that have production on both sides of the border – all of which must be grown in compliance with US agricultural law in order to be shipped and sold in the US. Lastly, as an additional quality assurance we do regular broad spectrum residue testing on both organic and conventional, import and domestic produce to make sure there are no detectable residues of legal (or illegal) pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and other farm inputs. I am assuming by your reference to local in the same sentence as California that you are a resident- I live in California as well and enjoy an excellent selection of local produce from our stores and my local farmers market year round. This would not be the case if you are I lived in Boston or Chicago right now. Currently, more than 250 truckloads of produce per week originate from California destined to locations throughout the US. This number will rise and fall throughout the year as regional and local product becomes available. Our goal at Whole Foods is to provide a complete shopping experience – this requires we purchase both import and domestic produce. Another goal is to provide our customers with complete, up to date, and accurate information on product source so that you can make your own decisions on what to buy. Barbara- to answer your question, yes we buy product from Mexico. Best, James Parker
02/24/2011 5:38:16 PM CST
Victor says ...
I would like to know what goes into growing carrots. Would you be kind as to provide some tips? Thanks,
02/16/2011 10:49:50 PM CST
Barbara says ...
Is it true that Whole Foods is selling Mexican produce containing toxins and pesticides. If so Count me out also.
02/22/2011 7:18:29 AM CST
Kali45 says ...
Carrots and Hummus are a great combination, or cooked in a pan brushed with olive oil, salt, pepper, any seasonings you like!
02/22/2011 6:22:36 PM CST
parkerj says ...
@Per: Hi again, Except for the part about California being among the largest producers of fresh agricultural products in the world- I’m afraid we will just have to agree to disagree. I also agree in part with your assertion that Californian’s (particularly coastal Californians) have an incredible selection of fresh produce to choose from year round – though if you can find a field grown tomato, pepper, eggplant, or summer squash produced in California right now I would be very surprised. For me personally I shop both the farmers markets and our stores because there are early and late season local items I can find at a farmers market that are not in my local supermarkets. There are many reason why this would be the case- the largest being the relative quality and amount of product available for commercial sale- but I am content to shop my local farmers market on Saturday and fill out the rest of my weekly needs at Whole Foods. I won’t dispute your claim of poor oversight in Mexico- except to say that poor oversight can be anywhere (even here in the US). What I will say is we have a long and transparent relationships with all of our established shippers and new business relationships are extensively vetted prior to shipping a single box. Regarding NAFTA and cheap produce all I can say is cheap (particularly import cheap) in my experience is generally not environmentally or socially sustainable- import or domestic we strive to pay a fair price for the produce we buy. We also have a three level buying model (national, regional, local) that enables us to move from large to small scale, long haul to local producers when conditions permit. Not just to reduce ground miles to market as you mentioned, but to support the growers and economies where we operate our stores. There are places throughout the US where this is easier than others and while I am certain we can do better, we are very much committed to supporting local and regional producers.
03/19/2011 2:28:39 PM CDT