Carrots, cancer and cooking

The latest advice is that you boil your carrots before cutting them, because chopping causes nutrients to leach out during cooking. Proving once more that, while in heaven the cops are English, the chefs are French and the soldiers are German, in hell the soldiers are French, the cops German and the chefs English.

There's a fascinating article at the BBC about carrots, cancer and cooking.

At issue is a substance called falcarinol, a natural pesticide researchers at the University of Newcastle on Tyne concluded in 2005 could help prevent tumors.

The latest advice is that you boil your carrots before cutting them, because chopping causes nutrients to leach out during cooking. 

Proving once more that, while in heaven the cops are English, the chefs are French and the soldiers are German, in hell the soldiers are French, the cops German and the chefs English.

For one thing boiling a whole carrot takes a long, long time. By the time the fat end is cooked the thin end is mush. For another thing boiling, by itself, leaches out more nutrients than cutting ever will.

"All you need is a bigger saucepan," said Dr. Kirsten Brandt, Newcastle's carrot lady.

No, Dr. Brandt. What you need is a recipe. Fortunately I grew up on one.  It's the carrots-and-turnips from my family's Thanksgiving dinners. (I found a very close version at the Houston Press, from which this picture is taken.)

The change is that you steam the vegetables whole, just dropping them in a colandar over hot water for a half hour, poking the turnips to test for doneness. If you don't have time, zap 'em in a microwave -- I'm sure Dr. Brandt will forgive you if you cut the carrots once in half to get them in there.

Once they're cooked you just mash them. Butter is nice, but if you like olive oil that's fine, too. Salt and pepper, and I like a little nutmeg, maybe some allspice.

I'm thinking that you could make it a substitute for potato salad during the summer, maybe with some cumin and herbs before it goes into the refrigerator. Mash it gently, so it's in pieces rather than smooth, and test small batches to find the combination of flavor you like.

Try it at your next picnic and let me know how it goes. We'll send the best recipes to Dr. Brandt. Do it for science.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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