Although tomatoes are typically touted as a vegetable, the juicy red orbs are technically a fruit -- which might leave you wondering about the other brightly colored plant foods nestled in your refrigerator. With their bright orange color and slightly sweet taste, carrots are the most curious of the bunch. But you won’t need to dice them up and toss them into your fruit salad, since carrots really are veggies.
Fruits vs. Vegetables
According to MayoClinic.com, the easy way to determine whether a piece of produce is a fruit or vegetable involves taking a look at the original plant. Anything that develops from a flower is considered a “fruit,” while the other parts of the plant are considered “vegetables.” These parts might include the leaves, stem, tubers, bulbs, flowers and roots.
Back To Your Roots
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines the carrot as a “biennial herb with a usually orange spindle-shaped edible root.” In simpler terms, the carrot is a root vegetable. Although you typically discard the roots and consume the part of the plant that grows above ground, the opposite rings true for root vegetables -- which have fleshy, edible roots and a starchy composition.
Pick a Winner
Although the orange varieties most frequently grace grocery store displays, you can also find carrots in white, black, yellow, red and purple. Since they’re grown year-round, you shouldn’t have much trouble locating the root veggies for an affordable price. Look for whole carrots with bright and leafy greens still attached -- they'll typically be fresher and sweeter that way. The skin should be smooth and the texture should be firm. As with most other veggies, avoid carrots that look wilted, cracked or discolored.
Cook ‘em Up
The versatile veggie can be prepared in a variety of ways -- just avoid boiling them, which zaps their nutrients. Steam them in a microwave or steamer basket for a crisp-tender texture. Steam for a few minutes longer if you prefer a softer texture. Carrots can also be diced and roasted or brushed with olive oil and tossed on the grill. And if you’re feeling lazy, eat them raw for a sweet and crunchy snack. Raw carrots can be shredded and added to salads or sandwiches or diced into chunks and enjoyed with hummus, salsa or yogurt dip.
Krista Sheehan is a registered nurse and professional writer. She works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and her previous nursing experience includes geriatrics, pulmonary disorders and home health care. Her professional writing works focus mainly on the subjects of physical health, fitness, nutrition and positive lifestyle changes.