Food & Drink

The nutritious, delicious carrot

The simple carrot – staple of party trays and salad bars – is in season from now until fall.

That may be news to most of us, since we've grown accustomed to carrots being available year-round. Most are grown in California and shipped throughout the country. But back home, carrots are showing up at farmers markets.

That's good news at my house, because nothing beats the flavor of fresh, locally grown carrots.

Carrots are a rich source of vitamins A, K and C and a good source of potassium and dietary fiber.

They're also high in beta-carotene and other beneficial phytochemicals.

In fact, eating large amounts of carrots or carrot juice can temporarily cause your skin to turn yellow-orange. It's not a harmful condition, but it underscores the amount of beta-carotene the vegetable contains.

As nutritious as carrots are, it's fortunate that they're also so versatile and easy to work into your diet. I use carrots liberally in various forms. Here are a few:

Shredded. Add a couple of handfuls of shredded carrot to salads and casseroles. They're good in a hummus sandwich because the sticky bean dip helps keep carrot pieces from falling out.

Sticks. Use julienne-cut carrots or carrot sticks as snacks for dipping with salad dressing, bean dip or salsa. They're also convenient to keep on hand for stir-fry.

Cooked. If you have leftover fresh carrots at home, an easy way to use them up is to simply steam them in the microwave oven or on the stovetop. Carrots sweeten as they cook, explaining why cooked carrots taste so good.

Juice. If you have a heavy-duty juicer or blender, you can make your own fresh carrot juice. If not, buy fresh carrot juice at your local natural foods store. Mix it with orange juice for a refreshing and highly nutritious breakfast drink.

If carrots aren't a staple at your house, they should be.