Elsie, a reader from Blue Hill, wrote to me that she had a bumper crop of carrots this past year. Carrots are a nutritious and delicious root vegetable, and marvelous, local crop. They are one of the Maine Local Twenty: twenty foods that Maine has the capacity to produce for its residents to enjoy all year.
Carrots are one of the top-ten most economically important vegetable crops in the world, and are widely used in many cuisines. The 2011 production of carrots was almost 36 million tons, with China being the top producer, and the United States third. Usually orange in color, carrots can also be purple, red, white and yellow.
Elsie cultivated the variety Scarlet Nantes, a superbly sweet and crisp fresh eating carrot. “I planted my carrot seeds in a 4 foot by 4 foot raised bed. As they matured, I was pulling at least one carrot a day to eat raw, either as a sweet candy bar or in a salad.” In the fall, she covered the bed with burlap, and as the temperature dropped, she added more burlap.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, she dug out all the remaining carrots, gave them a quick wash, cut off the tops, bagged them in 2 pounds packages, and stored them in the refrigerator.
The recipe for Carrot and Ginger Soup that Elsie shared with me is a personal favorite: easy to prepare, rich in antioxidants and minerals, and full of fiber. Vary the amount of fresh ginger root according to the tastes of your family. Cooking for vegetarians or vegans? No problem, use vegetable stock instead of chicken broth.
I was interested to learn that carrots are useful in reducing flatulence, treating digestive problems, tonsillitis and constipation. Carrots are an excellent winter keeper, and many farms in Maine, like King Hill Farm and Horsepower Farm offer them for sale all year. So before you reach for that bag of limp, tasteless carrots from California, think local and think Maine.
Carrot & Ginger Soup
- 2 pounds carrots, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
- 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (vary amount according to taste)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- In a large pot, combine the carrots, onion and oil. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until the onion begins to soften. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in the stock, season with sea salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Stir in the ginger. In a food processor of blender, puree the soup in batches. Return the soup to the pot and season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper. Gently reheat, ladle into soup plates, and garnish with the chopped, fresh parsley. Makes six servings.