Carrots have been around for over 1,000 years. Originally coming in a variety of colours, it wasn’t until the 17th century that orange became the common colour.
Nantes are the primary carrot variety grown in New Zealand. Recognised globally to be a gold standard for medium-sized carrots, they’re described as cylindrical with smooth skin and entirely edible bright orange flesh that is both sweet and mild in flavour. Its most unique characteristic is that it is both rounded at the tip of the root and at the top. Nantes carrots are revered for their sweetness, crisp texture and inconspicuous core.
There are a small number of growers producing coloured heirloom carrot varieties for the New Zealand market. These vibrantly coloured varieties are generally considered to be early winter crops. Note, supply is limited!
Available in purple, yellow and white as well as orange. The great thing about baby carrots, besides their petite size, is that they don’t need peeling – a good scrub will suffice. Baby carrots are available throughout the year.
Eaten raw or cooked, carrots add a subtle sweetness to everything from salads to braises and stocks. They make a luscious soup, a colourful puree and can be steamed, boiled, baked or stir-fried. Carrots are surely our most versatile vegetable for cut format: from a julienne to a baton, diced, sliced, grated, spiralled, peeled and juiced.
Carrots pair well with nuts, seeds, and spices, such as cardamom, cumin, coriander and aniseed. Sprinkle dukkha over roasted baby carrots on a smear of labneh, for a Middle Eastern inspired side. Continuing the theme, carrots match beautifully with pomegranate, currants and orange. Bring out the sweetness of carrots by roasting with some honey or maple syrup. For a really on trend dish try chilli infused "hot" honey such as New Zealand's own "Sweet Sting" brand. To create an autumnal feel, pair carrots with onion, celery, swede, parsnip, leek and garlic as a stew or soup base. Herbs such as mint, coriander and parsley help lift a fresh carrot salad. When cold weather makes your cabinet salads less appealing to customers, grains such as barley or brown rice are the perfect base for an in season roasted carrot salad with dried fruits, herbs and toasted nuts.
And don’t forget what the classic carrot cake teaches us: carrots add a wonderful moistness and flavour to baking, from muffins and loaves, to desserts like the Indian gajar ka hawla, which is spiced with saffron.
Ohakune is famously known as our carrot growing region, where the bulk of the supply comes from for a large portion of the year. Pukekohe also produces some significant crops along with the likes of Pypers in Southland.