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CROP OF THE WEEK: CARROTS
• In 2005, Yuma County carrot acreage totaled about 200 acres, about 1/10 the acreage found in Imperial Valley. Today, the Yuma area is home to over 400 acres of carrots, grown mainly for the baby carrot market.
• They're now being grown and harvested in Winterhaven.
• The carrot originated some 5,000 years ago in middle Asia around Afghanistan and slowly spread into the Mediterranean area. The first carrots were white, purple, red, yellow, green and black — not orange. Its roots were thin and turnip-shaped.
• Today, carrots can still be found in purple, white, red or yellow colors.
• Carrots are in the parsley family. As such, you can eat carrot tops the same way you would parsley, although the flavor is somewhat different. Use the tops in stews and soups, or chop them finely to give a unique, carrot-like flavor to salads.
• The majority of the carrots are harvested by machines; however, a small acreage is hand-bunched (with tops intact). Carrot roots are vulnerable to forking if too much nitrogen is applied.
• Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that those who consumed two carrots a day were able to lower their cholesterol levels about 20 percent due to a soluble fiber found in carrots called calcium pectate. Carrots also have been shown to help lower blood pressure if eaten regularly.
• Carrots have the highest content of beta carotene (vitamin A) of all vegetables. Other nutrients that carrots provide in abundance are vitamins C and K, calcium, fiber and potassium.
• Cooking breaks down a carrot's fiber, making the beta carotene and sugars easier to digest. A cooked carrot, contrary to most other vegetables, is more nutritious than its raw counterpart.
• If you buy carrots with the tops still on, cut them off before storing. Not only will the fresh tops go limp, they'll pull moisture from the roots and cause them to wilt. At 34 degrees, mature, topped carrots may be stored for up to five months.
• The longest carrot ever recorded was over 16 feet long and weighed more than 18 pounds.
• Carrots produce more distilled alcohol than potatoes.
• Carrots were the first vegetable to be canned commercially.
Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 726-3904.