Produce 101: Carrot, Onions, and Celery

Produce 101: Carrot, Onions, and Celery


Hi I’m Dan with FreshPoint, and today I want to take a few minutes and go over the basics of carrots, onions, and celery with you. You might wonder why we grouped them all together,
well, they are kind of the unsung workhorses of the kitchen. Carrots, onion, and celery comprise the classic
mirepoix for most all classic French sauce bases. We will start with carrots: carrots come in
a myriad of shapes, sizes, and colors. The most common would be the clip top orange
carrot. But did you know carrots weren’t originally
orange? In the 17th century, Dutch growers developed the orange carrot for the royal family in Holland. Anthropologists believe the original carrots were either white or purple, and native to the region on central Asian that’s modern-day Afghanistan. Carrots have a number of grades. Clipped carrots, which is what of us use in
our kitchen, #1 and #2. You want to look for uniform color, uniform
shape, and a slightly conical tapering root…sometimes you will see what look like little hairs on
them–that’s a good thing, that means the carrot was grown correctly and it’s not too
old. They are not overly sensitive to ethylene,
but you want to be mindful of storing them in there, because, ethylene exposure can make
the carrots taste a little bitter. You want to keep your carrots in a humid part
of you cooler, and as cold as possible. If they don’t have that humidity they are
going to dry out and get limp and rubbery. Baby carrots are available, and they do have
the original purple color. We can also get these in larger sizes, clip
top, or even bunched with full greens. We don’t see the bunched carrots very much anymore; the shelf life is a little lower. The carrot thinks it is still alive, so it
doesn’t hold on as long, the greens tend to break down and they are just a little more
effort to deal with. Flavor-wise, they are identical. Next up we’ve got celery. The most common variety in American is the
Pascal variety. This variety was discovered and first grown
in Michigan in the mid-19th century. California is the leading producer of celery. Celery has two USDA grades, #1 & #2, based
almost entirely of how compact and how uniform the head shape is. You want a compact head, you don’t want the
stalks to be bloomed out. You want some green. You want to look at the green, you don’t want
to see any bug damage or any yellowing. Celery likes it really cold and really humid. It tends to dry out and get even rubberier
faster than a carrot will. Be mindful of how you handle and store your
carrots and celery, don’t stack heavy items on top, they will tend to be a little brittle
and can break. Celery especially, if you drop the box of
celery, the stalks run the risk of shattering and breaking apart. You can still use it, but it just doesn’t
have the same visual appeal. Onions may be the most unsung hero of the
kitchen. They can add an incredible sweetness to a
dish, they can add umami to a dish if prepared correctly, they come in a myriad of shapes,
sizes, and colors. Yellow onions is the most common, this is
what we use in the mirepoix. Onions have a number of grades, #1 and #2
being the primary ones–we will focus on #1. We want uniform shape, size, and color. We want it to be correct to the variety. The sizing of the yellow onion is based on
the diameter of the root ball. The largest being Super Colossal, the smallest
being a Boiler onion. Jumbo size is the most common and the most
readily available on the market, and that’s mostly what you’ll see in your kitchens. Red onions have the same grades as the yellow. Onions like it to be dry and dark. They don’t like the moisture, in fact, when
onions are harvested, the skin is really moist. The farmer will turn up the rows and leave
the onions outside for a few days so that skin will dry out and make it to market. During the early parts of the harvest they
do market the onions bunched with tops, much like green onions. The tops are edible. Green onions we use for the exact opposite
reasons we do dried onions. We want that green herbal pop from the top,
it has less pungency. Green onions do like it cold and believe it
or not, they do like it moist. So, they are literally the black sheep of
the onion family. Sweet onions are the exact same variety, but
what makes them sweet is the lack of Sulphur in soil. In fact, it’s the Sulphur that gives onions
its pungency that makes you cry when you cut them. I’m Dan with FreshPoint, and that’s the basics of carrots, onions, and celery.

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