I love carrots. Not the anemic tasteless ones you buy at the grocery store, but the real ones that come fresh from the garden. Once you've eaten one of these, you will never eat any other kind.
Daddy tried to grow carrots when I was a child, but had no success. The ground was too hard and rocky for them to grow properly. So we got our fresh carrots from the Mennonite family up the road who had sandy soil in their garden spot. Because loose soil is one of the secrets to growing carrots. They need room to expand. And sandy soil means you can 'over winter' them by leaving them in the garden and picking them whenever you need them all winter long, as the ground will not freeze.
I over wintered my carrots this year, and it has been such a pleasure to harvest a basket full whenever I want. Not to mention the joy of watching the grandchildren eagerly pulling them from the ground. Early in December when my kids came to decorate for me, the youngest ones went to the garden and harvested nearly a whole bed. It was like a treasure hunt for them. And once they were washed, everyone dug in. My daughter asked her youngest girl “What are you dong? You don't even like carrots!” to which MJ replied, “But Momma, these are real carrots!”
And that is the thing. Real carrots have taste. Greg was always the same way. He hated carrots. He didn't even like carrot cake. And he always complained because I only bought carrots from the Farmer's Market, or the Truck Patch stores and they are more expensive than the supermarket. Then, last year, I planted carrots for the first time. He still didn't take much notice, until the kids picked their big haul. Curious, he washed and ate one himself. The look on his face was priceless. A few days later when I made a roast, he ate over half the carrots.
Last week, he asked me what all I could do with carrots. Could I make soup? So out came the cookbooks, and I made carrot soup. There were no left overs. My soup is cream of carrot, and instead of running it through the food processor, I cook it in cast iron until it is really soft, then puree it in the pot with an old fashioned potato masher. Works like a charm!
Since Greg decided he loves carrots too, I have been happily cooking with them many times a week. I brought out one of my favorite cookbooks put together by my good friend Donna Couch and made an old fashioned carrot cake. This time I did use the food processor to mince my carrots instead of using the hand grater. It turned out perfect, and the cream cheese icing just finished it off. Greg was in heaven.
Last night, we had stir-fry pork featuring carrots. As we were eating, Greg asked me if I had ordered new seeds yet. I assured him they are on my list. Atomic Red Carrots from Baker Creek Seeds. The beauty of raised beds is you can mix your soil for any plant requirements, and sand is cheap. We are actually thinking of expanding the carrot beds this year. When you have something this tasty, it only make sense to raise a good crop. And I know with the grandchildren around I will have plenty of help harvesting.
Photos Property of Leah McCallister