Two years ago I had an epiphany. For most of my gardening life I walked by the rows of tiny carrot seedlings with a sense of guilt. I knew I wasn't going to get the tweezers and thin them as I should and that the big carrots I harvested in the fall would be either a) a function of natural selection, pushing their neighbors out of the way, or 2) a result of poor planting, the ones that shook into the aisles or just out of the line of the rest. But just as I'm a wimpy pruner, I'm a wimpy thinner.
Then, after reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I began thinking about ways to extend the season so we could eat more local food for longer. (If you haven't had the pleasure of reading this terrific book, I'd highly suggest it. The premise is that Kingsolver and her family decide to eat local, not more than 60 miles from their home in West Viriginia, for a year). Back to my thoughts about extending my New England season. Mostly those thoughts revolved around extending beyond the frost. But what about harvesting earlier?
Oh yeah, the epiphany. It may seem obvious to many of you, but for me, I used to plant the carrots, weed the carrots (not thin the carrots), then harvest the carrots in October right around the first frost. That was it. So, when it occurred to me (please hold the no duhs) that I could thin by harvesting first baby carrots, then a little bigger carrots, and on up to great big giant carrots growing with nothing obscuring them. Ta Da. Epiphany. So, now we eat garden carrots from July 1 through sometime in February, about 2/3rds of the year.
BUT . . .
No matter how much we thin by harvesting in the summer, we have a ton of carrots in the fall, which we are starting to harvest now, one row at a time. Time for carrot cake, carrot soup and yes, this delicious veggie loaf whose main ingredient is, of course, carrots. And please take the word "loaf" as merely a suggestion. I've made this versatile recipe into patties for a July 4th barbeque with our first harvest, or into cupcake tins for individual servings, or even into a cake pan as well as the traditional loaf pan. Of course, if you make patties, you'll want to turn them after fifteen minutes or so and total bake time with be shortened to 30 minutes. You get the idea.
1 Heaping cup chopped onions
4 cloves garlic
5 cups grated carrots, packed
3 eggs, slighly beaten
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1 3/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan or romano cheese
3/4 cup slivered almonds
2 Tbs. butter
Variations: handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped or 1/2 cup spinach chopped
Saute garlic and onions in the butter until soft. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl. Stir in the onions. Bake in a buttered loaf pan, covered with foil, for 50-60 minutes at 350 until sides are brown and top is really firm.
Slice and serve.
Serving ideas: Try serving with roasted brussel sprouts and garlicky mashed potatoes for an alternative traditional dinner. Oh, and homemade applesauce, my kids like to dip their veggie loaf in applesauce ala potato pancakes. If you make them into patties, serve them on a bun with a barbeque aoli, lettuce, tomato and onions.