Saturday, April 23, 2016

Carottes - Carrots in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated November 2021

The Romans thought the occasional orange carrot was special, but it took until the 19th century to have all orange-colored carrots take over the market. Nevertheless, You can still buy carrot varieties with white, yellow, red, green, purple, and black flesh.
Photograph courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service.
Photographer Stephen Ausmus.

The carrot's origins and carrots in France today.

Carrots came to the rest of the world from Afghanistan. (Just about the only good thing that I can think of as having come to us from Afghanistan)! Despite their origins, carrots are an important part of French cuisine. Your day may begin with a glass of fresh carrot juice from a breakfast menu. French lunch and dinner menus will include carrots in soups and salads, and accompanying the main course carrots may be the garnish, or they may flavor a stew, be cooked with a roast, or be part of a sauce. Finally, the dessert menu may include gâteau aux carottes, carrot cake.


Jus de Carotte - Carrot juice.
Photograph courtesy of erik forsberg

In areas of France that are well known for their agricultural products, excellent strains of carrots have been developed, and their origin has become an important part of their marketing. Additionally, as you travel around France, you may be lucky to find a restaurant whose chef loves heirloom carrots. 

In the Alsace, you may find the Carotte de Colmar à Coeur Rouge on the menu, or close to Paris, you may be offered the Marché de Paris, a nearly round-shaped carrot. If you have stopped in Meaux to see the home of one of France's two AOP Brie cheeses, you may not be aware that the surrounding area was once an important market gardening area and still remembered for its heirloom, Carrotte de Meaux. Also, the Carotte de Jarnac-Champagne carrot has been cultivated for decades in the clay and limestone soils where the best Cognac originates. ( Here, the word Champagne refers to the type of soil, not to the bubbly stuff). However, the two most well-known carrots, with their names on menus all over France, are the Carotte Nantaise and the Carotte de Créances.

The Marche De Paris carrot
Photograph courtesy of Semaille.

Carrots on French menus: 

St Jacques Poëlées à l'Aigre Doux, Carottes Glacées au Miel – King scallops lightly fried in a sweet and sour sauce and served with carrots glazed with honey. (Carrots may also be glazed with sugar, butterolive oil, or syrup).

Honey-glazed carrots with fresh thyme
Photograph courtesy of Scott Veg

Raviolis aux Carottes ConfitesConsommé de Jambon et Croustilles de Cheddar - Ravioli filled with carrots confits; that is practically a carrot jam, a conserve. The ravioli here is served in a ham consommé flavored with crispy and crunchy pieces of Cheddar cheese.

Filet de Pangasius sur une Purée de Patates Douces et Courge Musquée, Carottes Nantaise et Fenouil Braisé - Filet of Pangasius, the fish, served with a puree of sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carottes Nantaise and braised fennel.  

Pangasius, Basa or Panga, is a farmed catfish from Vietnam, mostly seen when imported as frozen or chilled filets.

Nantes is the sixth-largest city in France and is considered by many Frenchmen and women to be the best city in France to live and work. Nantes is also famous for its agricultural products, including these carrots and the grapes that grow around the town. The local farmers developed the Nantes bright orange carrot that comes with a naturally sweet taste. The farmers around Nanres are also growing 80% of France’s favorite salad greens, mâche, lamb’s lettuce.

The Carotte Nantaise
Photograph courtesy of Ferme de Sainte Marthe.

Filet de Maquereau Mariné, Carottes Nouvelles aux Agrumes – A filet of marinated mackerel served with young carrots and grapefruit.

Salade MaraîchèreTomates, Concombres, Haricots Verts, Coeur d’Artichauts, Pommes de Terre, Carottes Râpées, Oeuf Dur – A market garden salad: Tomatoes, cucumbers, green beansartichoke hearts, potatoes, grated carrots, hard-boiled eggs.

Grated Carrots
Photograph courtesy of Marco Verch

Rôti de Boeuf, Braisé au Pinot Pomme De Terre Au Four, Crème Et Ciboulette, Carottes Vichy. – Roast beef braised with pinot noir wine accompanied by baked potatoes and served with a cream of chives sauce and Vichy carrots.

Carottes Vichy - Carottes Vichy is the name given to carrots, boiled in the town of Vichy’s famous lightly effervescent mineral water when served as a garnish glazed with butter.  The town of Vichy in the Auvergne is famous for the food products named after it such as Vichyssoise and its mineral water.  The town strives to put behind it its infamous role as the center of the French-German collaboration in WWII.

Potage aux Carottes Parfumé à l'Orange et au Gingembre Carrot soup flavored with oranges and ginger.

Roasted carrot soup.
Photograph courtesy of stu_spivack

Carpaccio de Carottes et sa Terrine de Crevettes  A Carpaccio of carrots served with a pate of shrimp.

Foie Fras de Canard en Terrine, Carotte Violette Préparée Comme une Confiture - Fattened duck liver pate served with violet colored carrots prepared as a jam, a confit. There is little or no difference between vegetables prepared as a confit or as a confiture; the menu listing is the chef’s choice.

Carrot confiture
Photograph courtesy of A Prendre Sans Faim

Eglefin Fumé, Salade de Lentilles Vertes et Julienne de Carottes – Smoked haddock served with salad of green lentils and carrots julienne.

Julienne is one of France’s popular sizes for cut vegetables. Julienned vegetables look somewhat like matchsticks. Here the carrots are cut into slices about 2mm square and about 5cm long.

Julienne de Carottes
Photograph courtesy of Phil! Gold

Cabillaud Roti, Carottes Pourpre, Croquettes de Blé aux Herbes, Coulis d'Épinard - Roast cod served with purple carrots and croquettes of wheat with herbs and a spinach sauce. 

Purple carrots.
Photograph courtesy of Stacy Spensley

Thon, Sauce Vierge, Mousseline de Carottes, Brunoise de Légumes Poëlés – Tuna served with a sauce vierge and a very fine puree of carrots and 2mm thick cuts of lightly fried vegetables. 

Mousseline - Before fine metal sieves became available, mousseline, muslin, the material, was traditionally used as a fine sieve and gave its name to very finely pureed vegetables, fruits, or mousses. A mousseline of carrots is a very fine puree of carrots.

Sauce Vierge - A virgin sauce; the name comes from the use of virgin olive oil. Sauce Vierge will most usually be on your menu with fish dishes. As its name suggests, it includes virgin olive oil, and with the oil will be fresh tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, basil, red wine vinegar, salt, and black pepper. The sauce will be served slightly warm but not cooked as virgin olive oil loses flavor when cooked. The sauce will be poured on the fish just before it is served.

Mousseline de Carottes.
Photograph and recipe courtesy of Super Toinette.  

Paleron de Bœuf au Vin Rouge, Purée de Carottes et Panais - A cut from the chuck stewed in red wine and served with a puree of carrots and parsnips.

Cabillaud En Croûte, Carottes de Créances, Beurre au Cidre – Cod with a pastry covering, served with the carrots from the Créances prepared in a cider butter.

Carottes de Créances, Label Rouge - These are France’s most highly rated carrots, they hold the label rouge, the red label for outstanding quality. These carrots are grown near the town of Créances close to the Atlantic coast in the department of Manche in Normandie. Since the 11th-century, vegetables have been cultivated in the area. Today, with independent farmers, the creances produce a wide variety of high-quality vegetables, including Red Label leeks, the Poireaux de Créances, Label Rouge. The Créances is also the name of the local dunes; here, the salt air, sandy soil, and the seaweed mulch the farmers use are responsible for the excellent taste of their vegetables. 

The Tourist information office in Lessay have a French-language website:
Google or Bing translate apps make the site readable in English.

If you love carrots, then on the second Saturday in August, there is the Fête de la Carotte à Créances, the Créances Carrot Festival. The  website that covers the carrot fair is a French-language site; however, it is easily understood with the Google or Microsoft translation apps:


A float at the Creances Fête de la Carottes.
Photograph courtesy of the Ville Creances

Three km (two miles) to the east of Creances is the Lessay Abbey, the rebuilt version replacing the one destroyed in the French revolution. In July and August, the Abbey hosts many concerts, and from the Abbey, it is a short drive to the small town of Lessay. Lessay has some excellent local restaurants and a dairy that produces a fantastic Camembert Normand, AOP.

Lessay Abbey
Photograph courtesy of Daniel Jolivet

Then, three km (two miles) away to the north in Saint-Germain-sur-Ay are an oyster farm, sandy beaches, and many small and good seafood and fish restaurants all around.

Oyster farm at Saint-Germain-sur-Ay
Photograph courtesy of France-Voyage

For those who like whelks and other shellfish

Two km (1 ½ miles) south of Créances is a village called Pirou; here, during the last weekend in April, they have a Foire aux Bulots a whelk. Their French language website is:

The history of carrots.

Traders brought the carrots to Persia and the Middle East from Afghanistan, where the Romans were active. Both the Greeks and the Romans farmed carrots and even then noted that they preferred the few orange carrots that occasionally were harvested. The first carrots came in a few shades of mauve; maybe one in a hundred had a slight orange tinge. A few hundred years later, the Greeks would bring carrots to France.

Orange carrots

Carrots have been selectively bred over the centuries to produce different colors, reduce bitterness, increase sweetness and minimize the woody core. Despite the cultivation of carrots for over 2,500 years and their introduction into Europe over 2,000 years ago, it was not until the 16th century that carrots became popular in France, with the orange carrot becoming the most popular in the 19th. In French markets, as elsewhere, you may see white carrots, yellow carrots, black carrots, and others.


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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016, 2021
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog write to Bryan Newman

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