What’s in Season: The Humble Carrot

This well-known root vegetable has gotten fancier, more diverse, and full of culinary possibilities.
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Story by Brud Holland

When I was growing up, they were just one color and mostly one size. Straight, almost homogenous by any measure. No, I’m not talking about cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, romanesco (my all-time favorite), or salsify (one of the more unusual vegetables I’ve used).

I’m talking about carrots! Those long, skinny root vegetables that taper from 1–2 inches down to ⅛ inch or less sometimes. They grow mostly underground until they’re ready to harvest with a beautifully green, frilly top.

The humble carrot has become, well, much more fancy! These days they can be eaten without peeling and when cooked can be used in soups, casseroles, sauces or simply roasted in the oven in butter and brown sugar with a little lemon juice (my mom’s favorite). Also, as I learned at New England Culinary Institute, they make up one-third of the French culinary “trinity” known as mirepoix (meer-PWAH), the starting point of any respectable stock.

In more recent years, carrots have changed significantly, thanks to plant breeding, organic growing techniques, and studies done by famous chefs like Dan Barber in his NYC restaurant Blue Hill, and the agricultural center Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown. You can read about Dan’s passion for carrots and many more food philosophies in his book The Third Plate—Field Notes on the Future of Food.

Now back to the carrots. Grown these days on several farms here in the FLX, the humble orange carrot can now be found along with white, yellow, and various shades in between garnet and deep purple. They’re sweet, thin-skinned, packed with intense carrot flavor, and they come in all sizes and shapes. Most important: They’re not only packed with nutrients, flavor, and crunch, they’re beautiful and can be made into something as simple as a pickle or as unusual as one of my favorite soups—Solferino, a delicious soup recipe that I learned during my early days as a cook in Boston.

Brud Holland is the executive chef at Sapalta restaurant café in Dresden

This article first appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of the magazine.

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