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Parisian carrots are a very small variety, averaging 2 to 5 centimeters in diameter, and have a round, curved, and squat appearance, similar in size to a garden radish. The carrot’s surface is bright orange, semi-smooth, bumpy, and firm, and depending on its growing environment, there may be a single, elongated taproot. Underneath the skin, the orange flesh is dense, crisp, and chewy with a crunchy but tender consistency. Parisian carrots have a fresh, mild, and sweet, subtly vegetal flavor. In addition to the roots, the carrots grow small, green-leafed tops that can reach 20 to 25 centimeters in height. The tops are also edible and have a grassy, green, and herbaceous flavor.
Parisian carrots are available year-round.
Parisian carrots, botanically classified as Daucus carota subsp. Sativus, is an early-season variety belonging to the Apiaceae family. The small, round carrots are a 19th-century heirloom developed in France for their unusual shape and sweet flavor, and once released, the variety quickly expanded in popularity across Europe for its effortless, fast-growing nature. Parisian carrots can be grown in containers and small garden plots and are adaptable to many types of soil, including rocky and clay. At the height of their popularity in the late 19th century, Parisian carrots were widely sought after among high-end chefs, and the roots were traditionally used whole in fancy stews and roasted meat dishes. Over time, Parisian carrots fell out of favor due to other new carrot varieties flooding commercial markets, but the tiny roots have remained a specialty cultivar and are still found through local markets. Parisian carrots are a type of round carrot and are also known as Parisian Market carrots, Parisian Rondo, Paris Market carrots, Parisienne carrots, and Tonda Di Parigi, which translates from Italian to mean the “round of Paris.”
Parisian carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A to maintain healthy organs, protect the immune system, and support normal vision functioning. The small carrots are also a good source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, fiber to regulate the digestive tract and contain folate, potassium, calcium, vitamin K, magnesium, and carotenoids, which are the pigments found in the flesh that have antioxidant-like properties.
Parisian carrots have a sweet, mild flavor well-suited for raw or cooked applications, including roasting, steaming, glazing, and boiling. When raw, the bite-sized roots can be displayed on appetizer plates, tossed into salads, chopped into slaws, or sliced into grain bowls. The carrots can also be used as a fresh, edible garnish. In addition to fresh preparations, Parisian carrots can be stirred into soups and stews, slow-cooked with meats, pureed into sauces, lightly steamed and served with herbs, or glazed and coated in sweet sauces. In France, Parisian carrots are popularly boiled in mineral water and glazed with butter as a savory-sweet side dish. They are also grated into crunchy side salads or baked into cakes and other desserts. Beyond the roots, the carrot tops are edible and can be blended into pesto, salads, and other bright sauces. Parisian carrots pair well with potatoes, green beans, artichoke hearts, cucumber, seafood such as fish and scallops, meats such as poultry, pork, and beef, honey, and herbs such as coriander, parsley, cilantro, sage, and mint. The roots will keep up to one month when stored loosely in a plastic bag with good air circulation in the refrigerator's crisper drawer. Never store fruit along with carrots, as fruits expel ethylene gas that is readily absorbed by carrots. The carrots exposed to the ethylene gas will turn very bitter, making them not suitable for eating.
Legend has it that Parisian carrots were invented to create a small, fast-growing carrot that could fit within a window box. Paris is a densely populated city, and many families live in small homes with no personal outdoor space. To compensate for the lack of space, Parisian residents used window boxes to grow flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Window boxes were used as early as Ancient Rome to cultivate small plots of greenery, and the trend continued into the 1800s during the time Parisian carrots were created. In Paris, window boxes were primarily shallow and long, and Parisian carrots grow well in compact spaces, especially when the plants are bunched together. Parisian carrots can also be grown in a variety of soils, making them well-suited for container growing. In modern-times, window boxes in Paris have become more ornamental, and many vegetables have been replaced by showy, brightly colored flowers, but the round heirloom carrots can still be found at local markets. The weekend markets often feature the small carrots with their tops still attached and are artfully arranged in displays to attract chefs and home cooks.
Parisian carrots were developed in France sometime during the 1800s, with experts believing the variety was introduced around 1850. While the cultivar's exact history is unknown beyond its creation in France, many round carrot varieties were produced over time in Europe to showcase improved flavors, textures, and size. Parisian carrots were introduced to the United States in 1861 and were a favorite home garden cultivar by the early 20th century. Today Parisian carrots are a gourmet variety primarily found at local farmer markets, specialty grocers, and in home gardens throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and the United States.
Recipes that include Parisian Carrots. One is easiest, three is harder.