WHAT’S FRESH : BUYING OPPORTUNITIES : Crunch Time : * Babies, Chantenays or Imperators, raw carrots should all be firm for freshness.

Cartoon character Bugs Bunny celebrated his 50th anniversary last week, munching on a carrot as usual.

Probably the most famous carrot-lover in the world, Bugs has known for a long time that a carrot is a versatile vegetable for cooks, as well as being a rabbit’s best friend.

Besides eating them raw, Ojai carrot-grower Russ Di Lando recommends juicing carrots, especially for dieters. “It kills your appetite, really satisfies you,” he said. “The vitamin A is good for your eyes and skin, and the vitamin E is good for your skin and lungs.”

Di Lando grows Chantenay carrots, a French variety that resembles a toy top. Short, fat and round, the Chantenay, he said, is sweeter and the texture is less woody than the Imperator, the most common variety and the one in abundant supply at the supermarket.


Shoppers who head to the supermarket to buy their carrots should inspect them for firmness, which is a sign of freshness, according to Mary Ann Sprinkel, who grows carrots in Carpinteria. “You don’t want to buy soft carrots, and the root tip should also not be brown, that indicates age,” Sprinkel said.

Carrots have a shelf life of about two weeks, Sprinkel said, but if you store them in the refrigerator, be ready to rehydrate them later. “Cold air just sucks out all the moisture,” she said. “You can rehydrate carrots by chopping up the ends and sticking them in a glass of water until it’s firm.”

Sprinkel, who grows baby carrots, said they are sweeter than regular carrots, more tender and do not need peeling.

In addition to using carrots as a juice, in cakes and in salads, Sprinkel recommended carrot soup. “You saute some leeks, add some carrots and potatoes, simmer with herbs 30 to 40 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are soft, and then puree the mixture and garnish with dill.”

In addition to Chantenay carrots and baby carrots, the Ventura Farmers’ Market is featuring strawberries that are looking really good now, said Karen Collins, the market manager.

“Strawberries are at the height of their season now,” said Sally Queen, of Queen Ranch in Somis. “They’re huge and will be available for maybe another month.”

Some interesting fruit from out of the area are the small, yellow peaches from Reedley, and the New Zealand Gala apples, said Fred Wasui, produce manager at Gelson’s Market. And, said Wasui, pink honey is being imported from Mexico.

Consumers can anticipate lower prices for salmon soon, said Michael Wagner, owner of Seafood Specialties in Ventura. “The California king salmon season is open and so far the catch has been excellent.”

A major catch is happening now between Santa Barbara and Morro Bay, he said, so local retailers and restaurants will be offering very fresh salmon.

The Alaskan halibut season has also recently opened, said Wagner, and will continue through August.