I love to make honey rosemary carrots when I want something sweet but that I can still call healthy. I wasn’t familiar with this concept as a child that I remember, but I fell in love with them at the Austin College Sunday brunch. At my undergrad they only served one meal in the cafeteria on Sundays. You were on your own for the rest of it. But oh what a meal it was. I was usually unimpressed by Aramark’s food, but I did like Sunday brunch. Shermanites would come for lunch after church, it was that not bad. They had a cutting board with many different meats, shrimp cocktail (though my best friend from Houston refused to eat it because it wasn’t fresh enough) and a selection of tasty foods that were’t leftovers from the week like they usually were. Very frequently they would have honey rosemary carrots, and I would pile those on.
I originally made these by roasting them in the oven. This is still a great way to go, and I think it provides better carmalization. But I wanted something quicker and easier to do on the stove top so that I didn’t have to wait 45 minutes for it to roast. I have included the traditional recipe below too.
I have always liked carrots in all forms. They have that wonderful crunch, and you don’t realize it until someone points it out to you, but they are a sweet vegetable. That is why we decided to plant carrots last year in our first garden. There were two hardest parts of growing carrots: (1) thinning them when you know that each of those little plants would become a tasty carrot, and (2) waiting anxiously for the shoulders to pop up out of the ground so that we could eat them. Technically we could eat them any time (when you thin out and it has some little carrots you can eat them), but we wanted them to be completely big and ripe. The picture at the top of the page is of one of the first carrots we harvested. I cannot describe to you the taste and texture. It was the best carrot ever. This year we are tripling or more the size of our carrot patch, and adding in carrots of all colors. Who knew carrots came in red, yellow, and purple too?
As we all know, carrots are very good for us. The easiest way to make sure tha we are getting a healthy, balanced diet is to eat a variety of colors of food. Since there aren’t many foods outside of the citrus family that are orange, carrots are particularly good. The reason carrots are orange is because they have a huge load of beta carotenes. This nutrient is metabolized into vitamin A by our bodies. Interestingly, if you eat a raw carrot, your body will only extract 3% of the beta carotenes, but if you cook it or shred it you can get 39%. Interesting how processing food can also break down the barriers to more nutrition. Vitamin A is essential to good eye function. It is used to form retinol, the essential part of our vision. Without it, neither our color or tonal vision would work. So eat your carrots to keep you eyes strong! Carrots are also a very good source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, and minerals.
While researching I found a funny story. There was an urban legend during WWII that British gunners and RAF pilots ate tons of carrots; so many that they were able to see in the dark. Both the German military and British citizens thought this was the case. It helped the morale of the Brits, and encouraged them to grow and eat more carrots. It was also a handy way to cover up the discovery and use of the radar from the Germans. They couldn’t figure out how their planes were being detected so easily, carrots were the only explanation! RAF pilots in the air had superior night vision to the German pilots not because of carrots, but because they used red light on their control panels and red light does not disturb nigh vision like white light does.
Carrots, like all foods, have an interesting natural history. Scientists believe that they were first from Iran and Afghanistan, because it still has the greatest diversity of wild carrot species. Humans, as they tend to do, took the food and played with it to make it better for our consumption. Over time, we made it sweeter, bred out the woody core, and reduced bitterness. While first mentioned in classical middle eastern texts in the first century, carrots were not first introduced to Europe until around the 8-10th century. At that time they were mostly red and yellow. The orange variety that we know today was first bred in the Netherlands in the 17th century. At the time, the Dutch were struggling for independence from Spain, lead by the House of Orange. Eating an orange food supported their Dutch independence. Historically, our orange varieties are the odd balls, not the red and yellow.
If you care about the earth and the food you eat, I recommend not eating baby carrots. Yes, they are sweet and delicious. And yes, they are very easy because they’re already peeled and cut into sections. But they are not grown that way. All they are are big carrots lathed down to that size. Think of all the waste that creates! I’m sure the peelings go into our (also very wasteful) bagged anemic salads. But think of all of the energy wasted to run the machines. And then all of the resources and energy that go into making the plastic bag. And then all of the energy that goes into the truck and the refrigeration to get it to you. And then when you do get them, they go bad 10 times faster than just full size carrots. It is worth it to me to just peel the stinking carrot and save all of those wasted resources. I do understand, though, that some of you can only get your kids to eat the baby carrots. If it will get them to eat veggies, ok. But may I suggest growing them in your own garden? You will be blown away.
One final note: you may be surprised to find red wine vinegar in this recipe. If the goal is sweet, why do vinegar? The first time I tried to make this at home it was too sickly sweet. There was no depth to the flavor, it was just sweet honey and sweet carrots and the rosemary didn’t quite balance it. The next time I remembered that I smelled a little vinegar in others I had, so I decided to try to add red wine vinegar. I recommend to you in any recipe that is too sweet to add in a dash of good vinegar (not the giant jug easter egg making white vinegar) to balance it and add depth.
Honey Rosemary Carrots
- Carrots: Ben and I love this, so I did 3 large carrots for each of us. I wish I had done more, I love the stuff. But you do it according to your family’s carrot consumption.
- 1 tsp butter, 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (you cannot substitute dry. It crunches in your mouth).
- 1/2 tsp salt
Stove Top Directions
- Peel your carrots and chop into good bite size pieces.
- To speed things up a bit, you want to find a way to cook your carrots before you put them in with the tasty stuff. I steamed them on the stove with a potand a steamer insert. That took about 15 min to get them to be cooked but still crunchy. You want to make sure they still have some crunch and they’re not mushy. It would probably be even faster to steam them in the microwave. Put the carrots in a bowl with some water and cover with plastic wrap. Zap for 5 min at first and keep going until you have the correct doneness.
- Heat up the butter and oil in the saute pan. You don’t want a ton of butter, you are really just using it to encourage the carrots to caramelize.
- Mix together the honey, vinegar, salt, and rosemary in a small bowl.
- Toss your carrots into the butter and stir. Add in your honey mixture. Stir to coat, and then leave it for about 5 min. If you don’t let it sit then it won’t have time to turn nice and brown. Stir and let sit again until it is as brown and tasty as you want. Make sure each time that the carrots are in a single layer on the bottom. If they are not touching the pan then they cannot get nice and brown.
Oven Roast Method
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Peel and chop carrots. Put in a large bowl. Put in the honey mixture and stir to coat.
- Put it in a glass casserole dish in one layer. You may have to use a couple of dishes to keep them spread out enough to caramelize.
- Put in the oven to roast. Check at 30 min. You’ll probably need 45 min to cook them, but keep checking. You don’t want to over cook.