If you’re one of those people who scout the grocery section or market looking for seasonal ingredients, then you would have definitely spotted the winter carrot otherwise known as the desi gajar .’Desi’ simply refers to the fact that it is a crop that is indigenous to the northern regions of India as against the hybrid orange variety of carrots that are available throughout the year. Surprised ? Yes, carrots too were seasonal at one point of time , best eaten in kurmas, soups, stews,halwas at a colder time of the year when the body is in need of that extra fortification necessary to keep warm.
Just as most manual work has been taken over by the ease of modern day living so too has focus shifted from eating that which grows fresh at a certain time of the year as against mindlessly chopping on it at any time at all with little understanding.
We’ve all heard that carrots are good for the eyes, they contain beta carotene,lutein etc but did you know that what the world now refers to as ‘heirloom carrots’ are those that were not exactly cultivated by an invented method but were plants that naturally grew in a certain type of soil in a sustainable manner?!
As a result these heirloom varieties have added health benefits. The red carrot,for instance contains an antioxidant called lycopene which is a red pigment found in tomatoes and bell peppers.This red variant in comparison to it’s orange counterpart has a more rough appearance and offers distinct size differences going from thin ,long sticks to fat and rotund spears.Red carrots are said to have their origins in India, contain less sugars and are more fibrous (great for digestion).
Just the act of grating them is such a source of joy.The vivid red colour is so appetising and livens up the dish no matter what it is. We use these grated in a thayir pachadi (yoghurt side dish) or in a carrot and walnut cake . In the olden days carrot halwa was made only when the red carrots were in season.The rich halwa was also the ideal food to eat as a family when huddled close to get through the colder part of the year. So gajar halwa time is until the middle of January in the South and maybe until February up north.
While people up North use these carrots to make their favourite gajar halwa from the family cache of recipes, at home, we also love the taste of slow roasted carrots.For folk who don’t use their ovens much, the same taste can be arrived at by slow cooking in a pan with either some home-made butter, extra virgin olive oil or with a dollop of wholesome ghee. Nothing much is needed to uplift the flavour of these crunchy red root vegetables other than some natural rock salt ,a few snips of any green herb like parsley or coriander (depending on the kind of cuisine) and a generous seasoning of black pepper. It gets a delicious golden colour on the outside and must be taken off the heat when it’s soft but still retains a nice bite.It’s a tasty side to any meal.
These delicious carrots are available now at the supermarkets and grocer’s, so do make use of the limited time availability and treat yourselves to the goodness of this seasonal vegetable. How I love to peel the skin to see that appetising vibrant blush of red underneath! Colours occurring in food are actually due to a combination of the nutrients that come together to make up that particular ingredient, most often the darker the colour,the higher the nutrition content. If you haven’t done so already please introduce your children to foods such as these,it goes a long way in enriching their dietary habits.
The red carrot is so easy to add to any dish of choice.Even blending it into a simple juice or smoothie is a smart way to ingest all of that goodness. Remember,an ingredient like this needs to be respected and usually the simplest flavours and quick cooking techniques are by far the most satisfying.
So, grab that shopping bag or koodai (we don’t need any more of those pointless plastic bags do we ?!) and head to your nearest store.Treat yourself to a large helping of these yummy red carrots and let us in on some of your favourite ‘lal gajar’ recipes !