Anyone familiar with the U.S. predilection for french fries and pizza won't be surprised to learn that domestic consumption of potatoes and tomatoes outpace every other vegetable. The runners-up are onions, lettuce and corn. Despite consumption being measured by weight, carrots don't even dent the top five.
In Switzerland, though, nothing compares to carrots. The average Swiss eats 18 pounds of carrots annually, or about 163 carrots.
So what do the Swiss know about carrots that Americans don't? Perhaps a few of the following facts:
1. Almost every serious restaurant these days serves a roasted carrot, or something very much like it. “People are feeling more comfortable with having something like carrots in the center of the plate,” ABC Kitchen executive chef Dan Kluger told The New York Times. Industry insiders attribute the vegetable's appeal to wide availability, customer familiarity and versatility.
2. The tension between penalties and incentives is as old as mankind, but describing the dichotomy with carrots and sticks is a relatively new development. According to The Boston Globe's language columnist, the earliest citations date back to the mid-1800s. The phrase “carrot-persuaded donkey” surfaced in 1851. A few years earlier, abolitionist Lydia Maria Child had made the point that children respond better to kindness than corporal punishment by telling the story of a donkey that was fed turnips instead of being whipped. By the 1900s, turnips had been displaced by carrots in the popular idiom.
3. According to folklore, the orange carrot, which emerged in the Netherlands in the 1700s, was developed to commemorate the House of Orange, a branch of the European aristocratic dynasty. Wesley Greene dispelled the legend in his book “Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way,” writing, “It is more likely that the orange carrot was favored over the purple because it did not give the brownish coloration to soups and stews that the purple one did.”
4. If stored in the coldest section of the refrigerator, carrots should last for two weeks. But Whole Foods advises against storing carrots near apples, pears and potatoes since they belong to the class of fruits and vegetables that produces ethylene gas, which can turn carrots bitter.
5. Holtville, Calif., the self-proclaimed carrot capital of the world, yearly holds a multiday festival celebrating the town's favorite vegetable. Last year, first prize in the desserts division of the carrot cooking contest went to a carrot whoopee pie.
6. It's easy to make the tiny marzipan carrots that add whimsy to carrot cakes and cupcakes: All you need is store-bought marzipan paste and two bottles of food coloring. Ben Mims pointed out in Saveur, scoring the fake carrot's surface with a paring knife creates essential natural-looking wrinkles.
7. Vitamin-rich carrots are credited with toning and clarifying the skin from the outside in. The World Carrot Museum recommends grinding one carrot and mixing it with one tablespoon of honey for a make-at-home mask.