March 2, 2011

Tower of Ivory, House of Orange. Part 1

So many orange and green/blue items appeared in my kitchen/dining room lately, some of which you all recognize, recently. Not least of these are carrots, our next vegetable. Odd, because (as far as I can tell) the carrot is earliest derived from Iran in purple variation. Carrots have been found to inhabit various colors since this time, including white and the orange color with which it is most closely associated. Both the root and the leaves are edible, although there is some debate about eating the leaves, according to the World Carrot Museum.

This useful site also describes the medical benefits of the carrot top, which was also once a fashionable item with ladies and their milliners. Incidentally, when carrots go to seed, they very much resemble the prairie flower Queen Anne’s lace, which is actually wild carrot (!)

An outcome of my new-found knowledge of carrot tops and their various edible qualities caused me to explore a recipe involving such greens (thanks again, World Carrot Museum.)


I admit that a major draw of this particular pesto (aside from the use of carrot tops) was the presence of hazelnuts. Toasted. Hazelnuts. Although the carrot tops tasted like grass (not that I’ve been eating much grass lately), the hazelnuts carried the pesto. Throw in some lemon juice, fresh parsley, olive oil, garlic, and salt, and you’ve got yourself a tasty green mess, particularly if you do not own a food processor, and attempt a make-do with the “icy drinks” setting of your blender. Next time I’ll settle for the rough chop, which may be preferable with the hazelnuts.

For the carrot roots I employed Jamie Oliver’s recipe (one of three) for carrots, which involves boiling large pieces of carrot in water with wedges of orange (I substituted tangelos), whole garlic cloves, herbs, butter, and sugar (I substituted urban honey, thanks to Nichole and Sarah.) When the carrots are tender, drain the liquid, reserving one citrus wedge and the garlic cloves. Chop the citrus, garlic, and carrot together (I sort-of mashed them for textural purposes), return to the stove and stir in more butter, some cumin, salt and pepper.

Another recipe I’ve tried was a spicy carrot salad from Smitten Kitchen.

In all honesty, I have not thought much about carrots in and of themselves until recently. I have now developed a heightened awareness, as well as a sensitivity the power of cumin and citrus to transform the lowly carrot.

Another interesting diversion to the Story of the Carrot involves the The House of Orange, the regal entity of Holland during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I assume that our readership is cognizant of the broad outline of this period of time, in which the Reformation occurred. I think we’re all apprised of the bad (iconoclasm, violence) and good (church reforms) occurred during this time. Well, the House of Orange got pretty involved in a nasty altercation with Spain to allow more religious diversity (and a few other, umn, mercurial ventures), as well as Dutch Independence. They also ate a lot of carrots, which they prized for their coloring.

Should you be interested in learning more about the eighty years’ war, here’s a link to what may be the longest wikipedia entry currently on file. Ladies, please correct this problem.

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I will commemorate the Beeldenstorm with some provocative and distracting root-centric art.

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