A Thing of Beauty: Roasted Carrots with Thyme
I LOVE purple carrots!
When I saw them in the grocery store last week, I almost yelped out loud with glee — they’re one of my very favorite vegetables. They don’t taste particularly different from the regular orange carrots, but they are a creation of pure and utter beauty in my mind:
As I was thinking about this post, I realized that I actually love all “unexpectedly” purple vegetables: purple green beans, purple asparagus, purple cauliflower…but purple carrots are one of my favorites, their deep velvety purple exteriors giving way to a starburst of brilliant orange at their core. Besides their make-you-look-twice-color, what I love about cooking them is that they retain this color (unlike some other unexpectedly purple vegetables like purple green beans or purple asparagus, both of which fade to a shade of green when cooked.) Actually, I was reading up a bit on purple carrots and learned some fun facts:
- Purple carrots may have been the “original” carrot: temple drawings from Egypt in 2000 BC show a purple plant, which some Egyptologists believe to be a purple carrot.
- In Roman times, carrots were either purple or white. By the 10th century purple carrots were grown in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern Iran.
- The species did not turn orange until the 1500’s when Dutch agricultural scientists and growers used a mutant yellow carrot seed from North Africa to develop a carrot in the color of the House of Orange, the Dutch Royal Family.
- Purple carrots have an entirely different class of antioxidants (anthocyanins) than orange carrots.
(the above facts are from Carrot History and the USDA’s Carrots with Character – the first page in particular has tons of other interesting information about carrots throughout history!)
One of my favorite ways to eat carrots is roasted with thyme. If the skins on the carrots are thin enough, I don’t even bother to peel them — just a good scrub under cold water to clean off any grit will do the trick. Roasting is actually my favorite way to cook vegetables in almost all but the late spring and summer months; I love the caramelized flavors brought out by the heat, and I roast just about any vegetable!
Roasting vegetables is more method than recipe. Start with your favorite vegetable (root vegetables work fantastically well; asparagus is divine; cauliflower is delicious and nutty; brussel sprouts are tasty), cut it into not-too-small chunks, toss with a little olive oil, kosher salt and pepper, and (optionally) a fresh herb, spread out on a sheet pan and bake at around 400-425 until the pieces are nicely browned, tender but not mushy.
Carrots and thyme play especially well together. A bowl full of these jewel-like carrots is like a gift: the surprise and brilliance of the colors is a really special treat!
I like these carrots so much, I’m sending them over to Ramona from The Houndstooth Gourmet as a submission for this week’s round of Weekend Herb Blogging. You can see the roundup of all submissions early next week on her site.
Roasted Carrots with Thyme
about 8 carrots, peeled if skin is thick, otherwise just scrubbed well
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
about 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 425.
Cut the carrots on the diagonal into roughly 1 inch pieces. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil (I never measure, but it’s usually about a tablespoon give or take.) Sprinkle with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and thyme leaves. Use your hands to toss the carrots with the oil, salt, pepper and thyme right on the baking sheet.
Roast for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are nicely browned on the edges but not burned, and tender when you pierce one with a fork. Sprinkle with a little more fresh thyme when you serve, if you like.