Carrot connoisseurs

Carrot connoisseurs, Tasters weigh in on flavor profiles

The Recorder, February 27, 2021. By PAUL FRANZ,Staff Writer

MONTAGUE  With names like Bolero, Newhall, Naval, Malbec, Rainbow and Purple Elite, you might think you were tasting varieties of wine at a fine vineyard. But you would actually be tasting varieties of carrots.

On Thursday afternoon, Red Fire Farm held a carrot tasting at its offices at 184 Meadow Road for staff members and invited guests to evaluate and determine the best carrots to grow for their customers.

“Variety selection is one of the most important things we can do for flavor,” Red Fire Farm owner Ryan Voiland said in a press release. “With winter storage carrots, the flavor profile changes after months in storage, and some varieties can even taste better than when they come out of the ground.”

To determine how each variety in the growing trial has done, the farm is comparing tasting results from the fall immediately after harvest to the results of Thursday’s tasting to see the changes over winter storage, according to the release. Bolero, the current favorite, was taste tested from two different fields to see how the land affects the flavor. The ones grown at Red Fire Farm’s Granby location exhibit a stronger flavor.

Julie Fine of Johnny’s Selected Seeds out of Maine was a guest taster, and arrived with her muck boots on as she and farm employees stood around in the mud and sun tasting the little colorful circles of root vegetables and rating them on a score card. All tasters were asked to practice social distancing and wear a mask in between tasting.

The farm used the score cards to assess the characteristics of the carrots, with a rating of one to five on overall appearance, texture, interior color, flavor and sweetness. The best tasting carrots, as determined by Thursday’s feedback, will get the most space in the fields.

“We grow over 100,000 pounds of carrots for the community, so we want them to taste really good,” Red Fire Farm co-owner Sarah Voiland said in the release. On Thursday, she added, “We’ve heard some fascinating commentary about the flavors of different carrots from our CSA members.”

Fine remarked Thursday that it is not the short growing season in New England that is the challenge, but rather the long storage season.

“Long storage affects the sugars,” she said, explaining that the carrots can change flavors and dehydrate.

Ryan Voiland added that although selling his carrots with the greens still attached may make them more attractive at farmers’ markets, he recommends lopping off the greens as soon as possible because they contribute to pulling moisture out of the vegetables, shortening their shelf life.

Red Fire Farm will share the results of the carrot tasting on social media. The farm also encourages everyone to try out various types of carrots that can be purchased at winter farmers’ markets and stores.