With over 100 species of edible varieties in the world, carrots are a root vegetable rich in history and beta carotene. While we tend to associate carrots with the color orange, this hue didn’t become the norm until the 17th Century. Domesticated in modern day Iran and Afghanistan more than 5,000 years ago, carrots were commonly white, black, red and purple. Reportedly, the popularity of orange carrots started as a tribute to William of Orange by farmers in the Netherlands.

Not only did the color of carrots change over the centuries, but so did the taste. Today’s carrots are much sweeter than their bitter, dry rooted ancestors. Here in the United States, carrots didn’t become a popular vegetable on the dinner table until soldiers returned home from World War I, where they frequently ate the veggie overseas.

Carrots have the highest beta carotene content of any vegetable. Beta Carotene is an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A. This vitamin is responsible for healthy skin, a strong immune system and eye/vision health. Beta carotene is also what gives modern day carrots their orange coloration. This is also true for citrus fruits, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables can help ensure that you’re getting a variety of essential vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Roasted carrot and parsnip soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds carrots
  • 1½ pounds parsnips
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • One 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • ¼ cup sage leaves
  • 6 cups chicken stock, divided
  • ½ cup heavy cream, divided

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel the carrots and parsnips, reserving the peels, and cut into ½-inch pieces. Transfer to a large bowl with the garlic, onion and ginger. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet in a single layer and roast, tossing halfway through, until tender and lightly caramelized, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat 2 inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees and line a plate with paper towels. Working in batches, fry the reserved vegetable peels and sage leaves until golden, 10 to 15 seconds, then transfer to the prepared plate to drain. Season with salt and set aside.

Working in two batches, transfer half of the roasted vegetables to a blender with half of the stock and cream. Purée until smooth, then transfer to a medium saucepan. Repeat this with the remaining vegetables, stock and cream, then check for seasoning and keep warm. Divide the soup between bowls and garnish with a pile of fried vegetable peels and sage leaves, then serve.

The Athens Farmers Market Café is a collaboration between the Athens Farmers Market, OU COMCorps, a local Americorps program, and Athens County Children Services. Athens Farmers Market hours are Wednesdays (April-December) and Saturdays (year round), 9 a.m. to noon at The Market on State parking lot, 1000 E. State St., Athens. To help increase fresh food consumption, the Athens Farmers Market vendors proudly participate in the following social service programs: the USDA Food Assistance Program, SNAP/EBT (food stamps), WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Participants can stop by the table at the southeast corner of the market to get SNAP tokens to spend at the market.

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