I am not sure if it’s because of those multicolored Easter carrot candies that have sprouted up on store shelves everywhere and that you just can’t miss this time of year, but this is the first time I have noticed rainbow carrots in the fresh produce section of our local store. I’m talking here about real carrots; I didn’t even know they existed, although I may have already been served them, disguised in a pot-au-feu or something.
I’ve been surprised to learn two facts about rainbow carrots. First, carrots were originally purple or white; the orange carrots we’re familiar with are the result of hybridization, and other colors are now making a comeback. Second, vegetable pigments reflect different nutrients—the more colorful the carrots, the better they are for you!
Color and health factors partially explain the popularity of carrots. They’re not expensive, so I don’t plant them in my tiny garden, but they’re nonetheless easy to grow. Compared to other vegetables, carrots are versatile. You can eat them cooked or raw. When cooked, they welcome many different spices, and you can safely take them down the sweet or savory path. When raw, carrots’ crisp texture makes them crunch as you bite, their practical shape makes them easy to hold, and their sweetness makes them a great finger food or snack.
Unlike Americans, Moroccans eat carrots cooked or grated into salads… except for my kids, who only eat raw carrots in their original cone shape, and always while watching cartoons. When eating them, the boys remind me of Bugs Bunny, the fun and casual cartoon character famous for saying his catch phrase—“Eh… What’s up, doc?”—while chewing a carrot. Since his first appearance in 1938, Bugs has been in more films than any other cartoon character. According to this year’s Guinness Book of World Records, Bugs Bunny is the ninth most portrayed film personality in the world. Did he have an influence on kids’ consumption of raw carrots? I like to think so.
When I saw rainbow carrots for the first time, I knew how I was going to use them. I was not going to eat them raw, but rather in one of my favorite vegetable recipes.
Not Moroccan Couscous with Seven Vegetables, because, as its name suggests, that dish is already rich in colors and varieties, and this new distinctive vegetable would just fade into the mix; not in the delicious Moroccan carrot appetizer made with cinnamon, because that recipe needs a very sweet type of carrot, and rainbow carrots are no sweeter than regular ones. When I saw rainbow carrots for the first time, the combination of orange and white carrots reminded me of carrots and parsnips together in a recipe by Ina Garten: Orange-Braised Carrots & Parsnips. It’s outstanding. Please try it sometime. It’s quite simply my favorite carrot dish.
But really you can use rainbow carrots as you use regular orange carrots in your favorite dishes with a bonus of color and nutrients.