Clay soil means smaller carrots in this area

Locally grown carrots have been spotted at Oxford’s Farmers Market lately. They have been appearing in two sizes: small and large.

Small carrots are difficult to peel, but with local carrots I suppose it’s OK to wash them and then cook them. Back-yard gardeners in Oxford tend to produce small snubbed-shaped carrots, thanks to our clay soil.

I’ve been surprised to see very large carrots at Greg Hamm’s stand at the Oxford Farmers Market. I asked Greg how he is able to grow long carrots in our clay soil. He said that he has really good top soil.

The World Carrot Museum was a virtual museum about all-things carrot, maintained by John Stolarczyk of Skipton, England. Alas, the website is no longer active, but you can find it archived at

The virtual World Carrot Museum is organized into three floors, each with six or seven rooms devoted to different carrot topics. The Carrot Art room contains a remarkable collection of reproductions of masterpieces, including Dutch Masters and a Van Gogh.

The World Carrot Museum also has a café with around three dozen recipes. I’ve baked the carrot honey cake.

My favorite room in the museum is Carrots in World War Two: How Carrots Helped to Win the War. With food imports largely cut off, the British Ministry of Food urged people to grow and consume carrots in unfamiliar ways. Doctor Carrot appeared on many wartime posters.

Carrots launched D-Day. The day before D-Day, the BBC repeatedly broadcast the words “les carottes sont cuites” (“the carrots are cooked”). This seemingly nonsensical sentence was actually the prearranged signal to the French resistance that the Allied invasion of Normandy was about to start.

The BBC was correct – carrots are more nutritious when cooked, though with several caveats. To maximize their nutritional value, carrots need to be cooked whole; slice them after cooking. Carrots can be steamed but not boiled, as the nutrients leach into the water.

Better than steaming is sauteeing small carrots in oil or butter. The beta-carotene in carrots is a fat-soluble nutrient that needs to be coated in fat for greatest absorption.

I admit to preferring raw sliced carrots, thus sacrificing some of the nutritional value. But I moisten them in an olive oil based dressing, so that does somewhat improve the beta-carotene absorption.

Carrots at the Farmers Market often come with plenty of greens still attached. The greens can be chopped and placed in soups or salads, or pulsed as part of a pesto. If you do use the greens, cut them away from the carrot and store separately, as they both keep longer when apart rather than together.

I sheepishly admit to cutting off the greens and composting them. Perhaps next week I’ll use them.

Finally, I leave you with a Dennis the Menace cartoon. Pointing at a snowman, Dennis asks his parents “if carrots are good for your eyes, why does he have one for his nose?”

MOON Co-op is Oxford’s consumer-owned full-service grocery, featuring natural, local, organic, sustainable, and Earth-friendly products. The store, located at 516 S. Locust St. in Oxford, is open to the public every day. View itonline at

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