< Vegetables



No universally-cultivated vegetable enjoyed less regard as an ingredient of cuisine in 19th-century America than the carrot. The authors of cookbooks repeatedly observed that, “carrots are not a very favorite vegetable for the table. They are used in broths and soups, but chiefly sent to table as a garnish, or an accompaniment to salt fish.” Even the carrot’s defenders were compelled to notice that “[t]his vegetable is but little used, except in soups; yet they are very palatable and healthy, containing a great amount of nutriment.” The distaste was for carrots themselves, not their mode of preparation, for the commonest way of cooking them—what some cookbooks designated “American style Carrots”—was to boil them soft and serve them with butter, as simple a rendering as might be conceived, aside from chewing them raw. No cookbook of prior 1900 recommended consuming uncooked carrots.

Why, then, did most gardens contain carrots? Because since time immemorial they stood foremost among the vegetables that livestock savored. Both tops and roots appealed. In New England, in early November, the farmer “cut off the tops, near, but not quite to the crown of the plant, with sharp hoes; they are greedily eaten by oxen, cows, sheep, and swine—then run a plough deep” to unearth the roots for use through the winter. Many argued that they were the most nutritious field crop for animals. “One bushel of carrots will yield more nourishment than two bushels of oats, or potatoes, and it is a remarkable fact, that horses will frequently leave oats to feed on carrots.” Because of the cost of growing grains, claims such as these found a wide welcome in the second quarter of the century. Experimentalists noted that it thrived when intercropped with flax seed, so that a field could yield two products simultaneously; furthermore, the vegetable did not leech the soil of nutriments as most grains did.

When planting carrots, care had to be taken that the soil was deeply plowed and free of stones. The small feathery seeds were planted by a dibble or drill eighteen inches apart on a still day, so wind did not blow the seed astray. Once seed had been deposited in the drill hole, the field hand used his foot to push soil into the hole and step on it to seal it. Because the carrot did not have natural predators that attacked it during the early stages of growth (such as the turnip fly for turnips), it enjoyed a relatively carefree cycle of growth. In the antebellum period cattle farmers frequently intercropped carrots with mangel wurtzel, a root vegetable rather like a coarse rutabaga, that also enjoyed great favor as animal feed.

In the colonial period and early republic the long orange carrot, England’s standard root, grew universally in American fields. The French white and purple carrots were specimen plants cultivated by experimental gardeners exclusively. In the 1850s the White Belgian and Scarlet varieties enjoyed a vogue among hotel cooks. After the Civil War, the Danvers, the Altringham, and the Early French Forcing Carrot came into wide cultivation.

1. A Housekeeper, The American Matron; or, Practical and Scientific Cookery (Boston & Cambridge: James Munroe & Co., 1851), p. 100.
2. Southern Planter 14, 9 (September, 1854), 271.
3. John Prince, “The Culture of Carrots,” American Farmer 4, 1 (April 5, 1822), p. 6.
4. “Carrots,” The Genesee Farmer 1, 6 (February 12, 1831).

Chantenay carrots    History

Chantenay carrots are shorter than other cultivars, but have greater girth, sometimes growing up to 8 centimetres (3 in) in diameter. They have broad shoulders and taper towards a blunt, rounded tip. They are most commonly diced for use in canned or prepared foods.

Danvers    History

Danvers carrots have a conical shape, having well-defined shoulders and tapering to a point at the tip. They are somewhat shorter than Imperator cultivars, but more tolerant of heavy soil. Danvers cultivars are often pured as baby food. They were developed in 1871 in Danvers, Ma.

one of the most productive, and best for field culture; flesh deep orange with yellow center, sweet and tender.

Early French Short Horn    History

small, best for table; preferred by some for all purposes, even for stock; is regarded as a large yielder, and of rich quality.

Early Very Short, Scarlet French Horn Forcing    History

early and of fine flavor; used in Europe for soups.

Early Red Half Long    History

stump-rooted; very sweet, good for table or cattle; flesh bright scarlet, brittle and fine flavor.

Half Long Scarlet Nantes, Stump Rooted    History

flesh orange, becoming yellow in center, but with no distinct core, of the finest quality.

Long Orange    History

improved; a standard field variety; most desirable for stock and good for table; color deep orange.

James’ Intermediate    History

fine, yellow, English field carrot, much grown for stock.

Long Surrey    History

long-rooted, deep orange, much grown in England for stock, good for table.

Altringham    History

selected; red, fine

Long White Belgian Green-Top    History

very productive and desirable field variety, fine for cattle; flesh rather coarse.

Long Orange Belgian Green Top    History

very productive field carrot.

To boil Carrots 1 (Frugal Housewife 1803)    History

Let them be scraped very clean, and when they are [boiled] enough, rub them in a clean cloth, then slice some of them into a plate, and pour some melted butter over them; and carnish the dish with the others, either whole or cut in pieces, or split down the middle. If they are young spring carrots, half an hour will boil them; if large, an hour; but old Sandwich carrots will take two hours.

Boiled Carrots 2 (Practical Housekeeper 1857)    History

Wash them, and split them in two—lay them in a stewpan, with the flat side down, turn on boiling water enough to cover them—boil them till tender, then take them up, and take off the skin, and butter them. Many cooks boil them whole, but it is not a good plan, as the outside gets done too much, before the inside is cooked sufficiently.

To stew Carrots (American Domestic Cookery 1823)    History

Half-boil, then nicely scrape, and slice them into a stew pa. Put to them half a tea-cupful of any weak broth, some pepper and salt, and half a cupful of cream: simmer them till they are very tender, but not broken. Before serving, rub a very little flour; with a bit of butter, and warm up with them. If approved, chopped parsley may be added ten minutes before served.

Carrots with fines herbes (What to Eat 1863)    History

Prepare a quart of carrots, and throw the slices in boiling water to cook them well; then drain them. Put a piece of butter the size of two walnuts in a stewpan and set it on a good fire; when hot sprinkle in it a teaspoonful of flour, stirring all the while; then add a pinch of grated nutmeg, salt, pepper, a teaspoonful of chopped parsley, and half a pint of broth; boil gently five minutes, then lay the carrots in, subdue the fire, simmer five minutes, and serve. Sprinkle a few drops of lemon juice on them just beofer placing the dish o the table, if it suits you.

Carrots a-la-francaise (Young Wife’s Cook Book 1870)    History

Scrape the carrots, cut the small ends into two, and the large ends into eight pices. Boil in water, with a dessertspoonful of salt and two tablespoonfuls of sugar, for one hour; drain on a cloth; place them in a stew-pan with two ounces of butter, and shake them till the butter is nearly absorbed by the carrots; pour in half a pint of new milk, and simmer gently for an hour. Beat the yolks of two eggs, place the carrots on a vegetable dish, stir the eggs into the milk and simmer two minutes. Pour the sauce of the carrots and serve.

Mashed Carrots (Common Sense 1874)    History

Wash, scrape, and lay in cold water a while. Boil very tender in hot water, slightly salted. Drain, and mash with a beetle or wooden spoon, working in a large spoonful of butter, with pepper and salt. A little cream will improve them. Mound as you would mashed potatoes, and stamp a figure upon them, or mark in squares with a knife.

Pickled Carrots (Harder’s Practical American Cookery 1885)    History

Use small young Carrots. Trim them, parboil them two minutes, and then peel them. Put them in a saucepan with boiling water lightly salted. Cook them until nearly done, then drain them and put them in earthen jars with enough cold boiled vinegar to cover t hem. Let it lay until next day, when you will draw off the vinegar and boil it, adding a little salt. Put the Carrots in a two-quart jar and pour the vinegar, when cold, over them (just enough to cover them). Then add half a dozen cloves and three bay leaves. Cover the jar tight and keep it in a cool place. Use them for garnishing, the same as beets.

Carrot Fritters (Cook’s Own Book 1840)    History

Beat two or three boiled carrots to a pulp with a spoon; add to them six eggs and handful of flour; moisten them with either cream, milk, or white wine, and sweeten them. Beat all together well, and fry in boiling lard. When of a good color, take them off and squeeze on them the juice of a Seville orange, and strew over fine sugar.

Fried Carrots (What to Eat 1863)    History

Prepare a quart of young carrots (old ones are not very good fried). Have hot butter or lard in a frying pan, and on a good fire, and then lay the carrots in; toss now and then to have them frid on both sides; when cooked place them on a dish, sprinkle chopped parsley, salt, and pepper on them, and serve.

A Carrot Pudding 1 (Frugal Housewife 1803)    History

You must take a raw carrot, scrape it very clean, and grate it; take half a pound of the grated carrot, and a pound of grated bread; beat up eight eggs, leave out half the whites, and mix the eggs with half a pint of cream; then stir in the bread and carrot, half a pound of fresh butter melted, half a pink of sack, three spoonfuls of orange flower water, and a nutmeg grated. Sweeten to your palate. Mix all well together; and if it is not thin enough stir in a little new milk or cream. Let it be of a moderate thickness: lay a puff-paste all over the dish, and pour in the ingredients. Bake it, which will take an hour. It may also be boiled. If so, serve it up with melted butter, white wine, and sugar.

Carrot Pudding 2 (American New England Cookery 1808)    History

A coffee cup full of boiled and strained carrots, 5 eggs, 2 ounces sugar and butter each, cinnamon and rose-water to your taste, baked in a deep dish without paste.

Carrot Pie (The American Frugal Housewife 1841)    History

The carrots should be boiled very tender, skinned and sifted through a sieve, or colander. Stew in a quart of milk, stirring the carrot in till it is as thick as you can stir it round rapidly and easily. If you want to make your pie richer, make it thinner, and add another egg. One egg to a quart of milk makes very decent pies. Sweeten it to your taste, with molasses or sugar. Two tea-spoonfuls of salt; two great spoonfuls of sifted cinnamon; one great spoonful of ginger. Ginger will answer very well alone for spice, if you use enough of it. The outside of a lemon grated in is nice. The more eggs, the better the pie; some put an egg to a gill of milk. They should be baked without an upper crust, in deep plates. To be baked an hour, in quite a warm over.

Carrot Soup (American Domestic Cookery 1823)    History

Put some beef-bones, with four quarts of the liquor in which a leg of mutton or beef has been boiled, two large onions, a turnip, pepper, and salt, into a sauce-pan, and stew for three hours. Have ready six large carrots scraped and cut thin; strain the soup on them, and stew them till soft enough to pulp through a hair sieve or coarse cloth: then boil the pulp with the soup, which is to be as thick as peas-soup. Use two wooden spoons to rub the carrots through. Make the soup the day before it is to be used. Add Cayenne. Pulp only the red part of the carrot, and not the yellow.

Puree of Carrots (What to Eat 1863)    History

Clean well, and cut them in slices, a dozen of middling sized carrots; put them in a stewpan with four ounces ob butter, and set on the fire; when about half fred, cover with broth, season with half a bay leaf, a small sprig of thyme, one of parsley, a small onion, and a clove stuck in it; when the whole is well cooked throw away onion, clove, bay leaf, and thyme, mash and strain the rest, and put it back in the pan, with half a pint of broth; set it on the fire again, simmer about three hours, and it is ready for use.