You are not going to believe me, but here goes:
We are still pulling carrots I planted on June 24th, almost seven months ago. I know! I wouldn't believe it myself, except that I wrote down the date in my gardening notebook, and that notebook does not lie. I wrote out the varieties—Purple Haze and Danvers and Atomic Red—and drew a little diagram to show which kind I'd planted in each row.
Then I completely ignored them—forgot to thin them, even—until October, when Alex and I pulled the plastic greenhouse cover over the garden and shut the door. Apparently, they liked this treatment just fine, because when I went foraging after Christmas to see what I might find for a chilly afternoon lunch, I found them stout and sturdy, still a head full of green on top and bright oranges, reds, and purples popping up from down below.
A few of them were carried off by lucky rodents—a mouse maybe, or more likely a vole—but for the most part, we've been getting a full harvest from every row. Some are small, little more than pinky-sized, but others are as round as silver dollars, as long and straight as home-dipped candles.
Mostly, we've been eating them fresh—washed and trimmed and dipped into a bowl of homemade blue cheese dressing or bean dip. But at my mother's suggestion we've also been cooking them down into smooth, velvety soups.
Here are our favorite two—perfect for February and March, for seeing us through.
CARROT GINGER SOUP
This recipe is adapted from The Black Dog Cookbook: Summer on the Vineyard by Joe Hall. I like it because it is quick, easy, delicious, and beautiful. The recipe calls for a lot of ginger—don't add any extra (the soup will get bitter), but don't skimp, either. The ginger adds a lovely bright taste.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 cups chopped carrots
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
sliced scallions or chives, for garnish
Warm up the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onion and ginger and sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onion starts to get tender.
Add all the remaining ingredients except for the scallions and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and continue cooking, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until the carrots are soft.
Puree the soup and serve hot with a sprinkle of scallions on top.
MOROCCAN CARROT SOUP
This recipe is adapted from one my mother found in a Moroccan cookbook from Williams Sonoma. The original name was Chorba b'khisou bil kseksou, or Carrot Soup with Spices. It has a stunning orange color and a lovely texture.
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, peeled and grated
1 heaping pound carrots, washed, peeled, and grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup dry couscous
2 teaspoons lemon juice
parsley, for garnish
Warm up the butter over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, then add the grated carrots, garlic, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Cook for a few seconds, then add the chicken stock.
Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the couscous, stir until boiling, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer gently for another 20 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and serve hot, topped with a little chopped parsley.