One of the most rewarding vegetables to grow yourself are carrots. Like tomatoes the flavor of a grocery store carrot cannot compete with homegrown carrots. Homegrown carrots are deliciously complex while grocery store varieties tend to be bland and flavorless. Orange maybe the most common color for carrots but my favorites are the yellow and purple varieties. They are easy to plant just sprinkle seeds directly into rich, loose soil. Do not attempt to grow them indoors and transplant them. They have a fragile taproot and do not transplant well. Carrots do best where they have plenty of room to grow but certain varieties can be grown in containers. I’ve had luck growing the round french varieties like Parisienne or Romeo carrots in large containers. It’s important to thin the carrot seedlings once they appear. It’s difficult but necessary or you will get mutant and deformed carrots.
The most difficult part about growing carrots is waiting for them to mature. This is usually my downfall. I tend to pull them too early and get a lousy harvest. Luckily, this year I was pretty busy and forgot all about them. This resulted in my best carrot harvest in four years.
This year I discovered the ultimate carrot. The Amarillo carrot didn’t split or show any defects. It grew nice and sturdy mature carrots. The flavor was sweet and floral. Since I had such a good harvest I thought I would attempt to make a carrot cake for the first time. It was surprisingly easy. The end result was a moist and decadent cake that I couldn’t stop eating. I personally hate nuts in my baked goods but if you are so inclined you can easily add them.
Summer Harvest Carrot Cake (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 Teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon o fground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of table salt
3 cups of medium carrots peeled and shredded
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack to middle position. Spray a 13 x9 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a large bowl and set aside for later.
3. Shred carrots using a box grater or food processor place in a bowl and set aside.
4. Using a food processor combine both sugars and eggs until combined approximately 20 seconds.
5. While the mating is running add oil through the feed tube. Mix until it a light color and well emulsified. Place into a bowl.
6. Stir in carrots and dry ingredients until blended and no signs of flour.
7. Place into pan and bake until toothpick in center of cake comes out clean approximately 35-40 minutes. Rotate the pan at the halfway pint.
8. Allow the cake to cool for two yours on a wire rack.
Cream Cheese Frosting
5 tablespoons softened unsalted butter cut into segments
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
8 ounces of softened cream cheese cut into 4 segments
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Beat butter and sugar with a hand held mixer at medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese a piece at a time. Add vanilla and beat until smooth approximately 30 seconds.