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These days I am trying to get my wife to eat her carrots. Usually we are just boiling them, and adding some spices and butter.

But she swears that she used to eat sweet carrots, but she can't say how long ago. Supposedly I should know the difference, but I don't recall such a thing. It must be that my sense of taste is weak.

In any case, is there a sweet variety of carrots? Or is there a common recipe to sweeten them up?

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    Roast them. Almost any veggie, but especially carrot, gets sweeter if roasted. (I don't know of any carrot varieties that are sweeter than normal.) – Marti Jan 12 '16 at 5:58
  • Sure she isn't mistaking a dish made from orange sweet potatoes for a carrot dish? ;) – rackandboneman Jan 12 '16 at 9:45
  • @Marti : the farmer's market that I go to has three varieties of carrots, and they're of varying sweetness levels ... but they're also abnormal colors (purple, white & orange). The white is the least sweet of the bunch, the purple the sweetest. If you check seed catalogs, most companies have a half dozen or so varieties, and some they claim are more sweet, but I'm not aware of any ranking of carrot varieties by sugar levels. (in part as it changes based on when they're harvested) – Joe Jan 12 '16 at 19:08
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There are varieties of carrots that have been bred for extra sugar, but you won't find them in your typical grocery store. Most of the grocery store carrots have been bred for color, shape, production and storage.

In grocery stores that sell loose carrots, you can sometimes find 'winter carrots'. They're quite large (nearly 2" / 5cm across). These are carrots that have been left in the ground over the winter -- they are typically much sweeter than carrots that are taken out of the ground in warmer weather. I have seen larger carrots at the latin markets and restaurant supply stores near me, but I've never done side-by-side taste tests to confirm if these are sweeter than standard grocery store carrots.

There are also seed companies (eg, Baker Creek, Burpee, Johnny's, Territorial, etc.) who sell varieties bred specifically for their sugar content, much like what's being done with corn. If you grow your own, you can seek these out, or you can check to see if any of the farmer's markets near you carry them. Much like heirloom tomatoes, they're often a bit stranger in color and shape than what you get in the grocery stores -- they might be short and stubby, or have a dramatic taper that isn't useful to make 'baby carrots')

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Carrots get sweeter if they are left in the garden till after the ground freezes (generally under mulch to facilitate winter digging.)

Then again, I personally consider cooking carrots a good way to ruin them, as I find them far better raw.

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    When I lived in Europe, they used to refer to these as 'winter carrots', and they were generally much larger (about 2" across) than what you find in American grocery stores these days. I can still find larger carrots in international markets and restaurant supply places, but I've never done a side-by-side taste test on how they compare to the skinny little things you get in a typical grocery store. – Joe Jan 12 '16 at 18:57
  • @Joe You should write an answer. I found some larger carrots that are kind of bumpy and starting to root. And they were somewhat sweeter than the usual. Somehow I associated larger carrots with being overripe, which would seem undesirable. – user3169 Feb 6 '16 at 5:53
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There are many recipes for glazed carrots Google - glazed carrot recipes. Generally using brown sugar or honey and butter, sometimes adding additional flavorings such as orange, bourbon or herbs.

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While some carrot varieties are naturally woody in taste most carrot varieties have a natural sweetness to them, especially when they are well grown and fresh. While I'm not on the organic band-wagon this is one case where I've found that buying organic does generally get you a better product as the carrots are grown better and allowed to mature, most cheap store carrots are picked before the sugars develop.

The best carrots I ever had were fresh from someone's garden, they were amazingly sweet, almost sugary. I haven't had much luck growing them myself - in dense clay soil they end up looking like nuclear mutants - but I will try again as the result was amazing.

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    America's Test Kitchen actually disagrees with you on freshness. Although there are some varieties that are sweeter than the ones you find in the grocery store that your friend might have been growing, if put into cold storage, carrots will get sweeter over time. See ATK's carrot-ginger soup, right around the 3 minute mark : americastestkitchen.com/recipes/7865-carrot-ginger-soup – Joe Jan 12 '16 at 19:04
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I find that there actually are (or maybe I got lucky as my sample size has been small...). Where I live there is a type of carrot that is usually sold massive in size, it is around 2"-3" in diameter at the stem-end of the carrot and it stays fat and thick all the way to the tip (usually about a foot long). Some of the larger grocery stores carry them but the asian markets all have them too. (In the normal grocery stores they are nearer to the things like bok-choy than to the rest of the carrots. Growing up, larger carrots were always bitter and woody but the few carrots I have tried from whatever this variety is have always been abnormally sweet and very tender.

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