[a medicinal cooking blog: using food as medicine to treat whatever may ail you]

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Crazy About Carrots

Carrots are a surprising vegetable. How surprising can they really be you might wonder when we have all heard how carrots are good for your eyesight and many of us have that image of a cartoon bunny chomping away on a carrot just like popeye slurped his spinach. But, did you also know that carrots are a yang vegetable in Chinese Medicine? Hmm...what is yang (and yin for that matter) as it pertains to food? I've mentioned yin and yang theory on here before when Spring last arrived. Most vegetables are yin in the sphere of Chinese Medicine nutrition. Meaning, they are nourishing, building, and more gentle. Whereas yang foods tend to be more energizing, moving, and dense (i.e. meat, root vegetables, onions, and the pungent spices). Well, a carrot is considered a strong (yang) vegetable with many capabilities. It's a real fighter prancing about in a slender orange (and sometimes yellow, white, or red) outfit with wild green hair sprouting off the top.

Carrots have a neutral thermal nature and are sweet flavored. They boost the digestive function and help detoxify the liver through the elimination of waste (i.e. also great for constipation) as well as with their diuretic effect. Carrots are also considered an anti-carcinogenic in both Western and Eastern nutrition, likely attributed to their high beta-carotene levels (which contribute the the "good for the eyes" function). Phew! That's already a lot...but, there's MORE : they help to bring the body to an alkaline state (P. Pitchford, Healing With Whole Foods), which means they can help alleviate conditions such as acne, tonsillitis, and rheumatism. Carrot juice heals burns when applied directly. Carrots help dissolve tumors and growths, as well as eliminate parasites. It seems the list is endless with carrots. If you want to read a bit more about the medicinal use of the carrot, go here.

While carrots are lovely raw and you can snack and crunch away as much as you like, they are extra healing (and easier on the digestion) if you lightly steam or bake them. You don't want to boil or overcook them but warmth is good for your digestion. I like to slow bake them (further increasing their yang capabilities) so they're pliant without losing form, sweet and caramelized on the outside, but still fresh and light. Consequently, you should try to buy organic carrots if possible as they have been listed as one of the top highly pesticide-riddled foods based on research by the USDA and the FDA.

Baked & Caramelized Carrots

1. Peel one whole bunch (about 8 carrots), chop into large 1 inch pieces. Place in pan and coat with olive oil, sea salt, pepper. Add freshly chopped herbs if you wish (correander/cilantro, oregano, or rosemary work well).
2. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on how soft you want them to get.
3. Serve as is or with a piece of fish (pictures below : baked carrots with cilantro crusted tilapia).

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