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Carrot Crop Challenge

Carrots keep me guessing. In spring if I scatter the seed liberally in the rows, only the odd carrot deigns to surface. But if I am stingy when I sow, in a few weeks I have carrots jostling each other for space. When I could do with a good-size crop, the carrots I am counting on never materialize. If I don’t need too many, I have carrots coming out my ears.

Trying to balance the problem of supply and demand led to some interesting experiments over the years – projects made even more challenging by the fact that two of our four children detested carrots. Even friend hubby is not overly enthusiastic about them, unless they are swimming in thick, rich cream. Short of buying a cow, those kind of creamed carrots are expensive to prepare.

Convinced, nevertheless, that carrots were delicious, nutritious, and easy to grow (sometimes!) I decided to make use of them at every opportunity. In years when we had a handsome crop of carrots with broad shoulders and long, slender bodies, I simply washed them, cut about half an inch off the top of each carrot and stored them in the fridge, layered between paper towels in boxes with tightly fitted lids. Kept crisp all winter long, the carrots came in handy for soup, stew, pot roasts and the occasional cake. Even the carrot haters would eat carrot cake, giving me the chance to point out, in motherly fashion, the inconsistencies of their likes and dislikes.

In years when the carrot crop was nothing more than a collection of shrivelled orange runts, however, I had a bigger challenge before me. That’s when I discovered that carrot could be substituted for pumpkin, and nobody was the wiser. Oh, once in a while the carrot haters would surmise I was up to something and ask where I got the pumpkin for the pie, but I would just point out to them that all the neighbours grew pumpkins.

Had they not noticed? Thus diverted from the topic, they went on to enjoy their pseudo-pumpkin pie without further questions.

Each fall, however, so as not to arouse any suspicions, I had to engage in the devious undertaking of pulling and cleaning and cooking all those little carrots when nobody was around. Cleaning them became a breeze once I discovered they could be washed in the automatic washer. Then it was just a matter of cooking them, putting them through the blender and freezing the resulting “pumpkin” purée in quantities suitable for baking.

Under the circumstances, my recipe collection has acquired a disproportionate number of recipes calling for pumpkin, alias mashed carrots. Family and friends alike never suspect they are eating carrots in the sticky cinnamon rolls I so often serve with coffee. Nor do they realize that the home-canned tomato juice they rave about has been “diluted” with some of the liquid in which I boiled the little carrots.

The way I see it, if that which is cheap, available and nutritious is not too palatable in and of itself, the challenge is to utilize it in more tasty ways.

It’s called economizing.

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