Joilene has been gardening and preserving food of all kinds for many years, and she thrives on the creativity involved in these processes.
My mother read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to my siblings and me when we were young. Naturally, we loved them. We sewed quilts for our dolls. We tried to teach our calves to pull sleds like Almanzo. We tried making butter.
While trying this exercise (which was successful), we grated an orange carrot, just like Ma, and used it to color very white goat butter.
As an adult, I read the books to my husband, and while contemplating the butter-making part in Little House in the Big Woods, I wondered, "What other color of carrots are there, besides orange? Why did Laura specify an orange carrot?"
A Rainbow of Carrots!
Well, I found out.
(Here is the part where all you people who aren't from the U.S. can laugh at my ignorance.)
Having always kept a garden, and having always been enamored by strange and colorful plants, it was a natural quest.
It seems that ancient carrots from the Middle East came in primarily purple or yellow, and that orange carrots are a rather new invention. The enterprising Dutch developed them in the 16th and 17th centuries.
As soon as I found out I could grow something besides orange, I started right in, and have been tinkering with them for a few seasons.
This article will celebrate these wondrous shades of carrots and show you how to freeze them, so you can enjoy them whenever you want!
Harvesting Your Carrots
Unlike typical orange carrots, rainbow carrots tend to go woody fast. So watch them carefully in the garden, and dig them as soon as they seem big enough. Of course, like all root crops, they prefer loose, sandy soil in which to expand and mature. But once they are mature, get them out of the heat! If you cannot do so, or wish for them to get bigger, mulch them with straw, wood shavings, or other moisture-holding materials.
They do not seem to be able to overwinter well and don't store as nicely in cellar conditions as hardy orange carrots do.
Best Preservation Methods for Delicate Carrots
The best method for keeping your carrots is to freeze them. Of course, a few will keep nicely for some while in your refrigerator crisper, but rainbow carrots are so good, you'll want to plan for enough to use all year.
Canning tends to make carrots mushy, and they lose some of their savor.
So freezing is the answer.
Step 1: Prepare for Freezing
Begin by scrubbing the carrots gently, but thoroughly, under running water with a vegetable brush.
Then chop off the root ends and the tops.
Peel if desired (some of the colors will lose some of their vibrancy, as the skins are the brightest), then cut in slices.
Step 2: Blanch or Steam
Next, you'll want to blanch or steam the carrots.
Why Partially Cook the Vegetables?
Partially cooking produce this way does three major things.
- It "sets" the color of the carrots.
- It makes them easier to cook later.
- It preserves flavor.
Proceed in one of two ways:
- Use a vegetable steamer, which makes quick, simple work of this step.
- Have a saucepan of water heating in which you can blanch the sliced carrots.
Immediately after partially cooking the carrots, you'll need cold water in which to "shock" them to stop the cooking. There are two ways to do this, as well.
- Run a sinkful of plain, cold water. Be sure your sink is very clean! Add ice cubes as necessary, and replace water as it warms and becomes ineffective.
- Have a bowl ready in which you can run small batches of cold water, replacing it often, as it will become hot in a minute or two after carrots are added.
Method two is my favorite cooling method, as it is simpler and quicker whenever you are not doing enormous batches of carrots in a raging hurry.
How to Blanch
- As soon as the water boils, put in some carrot slices until the volume of water to carrots is about half and half, or less.
- Watch to see when the pot returns to a boil. As soon as it has regained its boil, begin timing three minutes.
- As soon as the three minutes are up, scoop out the carrots with a slotted spoon, and place them in the sink of cold water.
Repeat with all remaining carrots.
Now they are blanched.
How to Steam
- As soon as the water in your steamer boils hard, put about two layers of carrot slices into the steamer basket.
- Wait for the water to return to a full boil, and begin timing for three minutes.
- Dump carrots into cold water.
Proceed with the next batch. As soon as one batch of carrots is almost steamed, the previous one will be ready to remove from the water to a colander, then bag.
Step 3: Freeze
Generally, a batch of carrots is about as many as you want in a freezer bag.
Label quart bags—carefully and legibly—with the exact contents, and the date. Put in as many carrots as you think you will need in an average meal, seal, and freeze!
Best Ways to Use Rainbow Carrots
You can use rainbow carrots any way you would use regular carrots, but they are especially nice for snacking raw or chicken pot pies and other casseroles, as they add color interest. Of course, they are a hit in salads and slaws, or anywhere their natural colors can shine. Another favorite of mine is a vegetable bake, with beets and potato wedges, onions, and sometimes green beans.
To use this way, generously coat the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil, and sprinkle in some salt and herbs. Rosemary, dill, or cumin are good choices. Quarter the beets, slice the carrots into sticks, slice the onions or cut them into wedges, cut the potatoes in wedges, and arrange all how you like within the pan. Coat all vegetables with olive oil. Cover with foil and bake in a moderate (350°F) oven until vegetables are tender.
Taste Differences Among Colors
Each color of carrot tastes a bit different. The whites are strong, a bit wild, and almost spicy; the yellows are sweet and mellow; the reds are lively, but not overbearing, and the purples are earthy.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Joilene Rasmussen