Almost everyone, of whatever age, knows and loves carrots. To introduce our new Carrot Powder today, I'll share my most memorable encounters with carrots, which came decades ago as I was learning to garden and to become a doctor.
From my earliest gardening days, I realized something that I believe to this day: The ability to grow carrots separates a really good gardener from the noncommittal gardener. Carrots are extremely sensitive to both the quality of the bed preparation and the care one uses to tend the young seedlings.
First, the bed must be completely level and a uniformly fine texture. Rocky or clumpy beds will produce poor results. Second, how you seed the bed matters. I’ve heard other gardeners say, if you sprinkle the seeds on the surface too thickly, they all grow, but if you sprinkle them too thinly, none grow. How this happens is anyone’s guess, but that has been my experience as well.
Third, once the seeds are sown, they must be watered AT LEAST once a day. Miss one day, and the seeds won’t germinate, and the ones that have germinated will die. Then, if all goes well and the carrots sprout, the bed must be carefully watered and the carrots thinned to produce a weed-free, properly spaced stand of carrots. This is truly a labor of love, but the rewards are one of nature’s most nutritious and flavorful foods.
In the early 1980s, I joined the Physicians Association for Anthroposophical Medicine. The president of the group was a young family-practice physician who, soon after I joined the group, contracted testicular cancer. Rather than undergo conventional chemotherapy, he used the Gerson Diet, with its 8 to 10 glasses of carrot juice a day, as his main therapy. He went into a full remission, which lasted about a decade. At that time, he had a recurrence, which he attempted unsuccessfully to treat with conventional therapy. It was a difficult time for our entire close-knit group of young doctors, but it drove home for all of us the life-long lesson that disease can be treatable through dietary changes. The experience was such a profound lesson for me that one year later, when I graduated from medical school, I asked my parents for a Norwalk juicer as my graduation present. My intention was to lend it to my cancer patients to make their own carrot juice. Thirty-three years later, that juicer has made untold gallons of carrot juice for me and my patients.
Although dietary suggestions for cancer patients have changed through the years, especially with the finding that low-carbohydrate diets can be very effective, I still always remember the power of carrots in my friend’s recovery. We used to think it was either the enzymes or the beta-carotene in carrots that were the active agents, but new research has identified an interesting chemical called falcarinol, which is found only in the root of the carrot plant.
Falcarinol is a natural “pesticide” and also protects the plant from fungal attacks. Falcarionol seems to have important anti-cancer effects in both prevention and treatment; in one study, rats fed falcarinol had one-third less cancer incidence than similar rats not fed falcarinol. Furthermore, falcarinol seems to become more bio-available through either mastication (i.e., juicing in a grind-and-press juicer, like the Norwalk) or through gentle heat (like blanching and dehydration).
Our Carrot Powder, made from organically grown orange carrots from local Northern California farms, was made with the bio-availability of the important nutrients in mind. Even though some of the beta-carotene is lost through cooking, this is an easy nutrient to get in our daily food. More important are carrots’ unique chemicals, like falcarinol, where the actual medicinal benefits might lie.
Our carrots are blanched, dehydrated at low heat and then ground and put into Miron jars or mixed into our Threefold blends. The Carrots Powder works well with both savory dishes, as in the chili we had last night (below), or sweet foods, such as Orange-Carrot Muffins (below). Carrots deserve a special place in the annals of medicinal food and should be included in virtually everyone’s daily diet.
Tom Cowan, M.D.
This is my favorite gardening time of the year. Spring has finally arrived in Northern California, and the long, cold rains have abated. While the winter rains have stimulated a lot of weed growth, the garden has a fresh, new look, with young, healthy, vibrant plants that haven’t peaked yet.