This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The Garden Carrot (Daucus carota), an umbelliferous plant, is so common a vegetable with us all as not to need any descriptive preliminaries. The root contains an essential oil, which is fragrant, aromatic, and stimulating. Upon this much of the virtues depend. Carrots are also rich in sugar, both cane, and fruit, in kind, to the amount of nearly 10 per cent. Their juice when expressed affords "carotin," in red crystals, with pectin, albumin, and the volatile oil already mentioned. The chief virtues of the Carrot lie in the strong antiseptic qualities which it possesses, as preventive of putrescent changes either within the body, or when applied externally. The sugar of Carrots can be collected from their inspissated juice, and used at table, being excellent for the coughs of consumptive persons. At Vichy, where. derangements of the liver, and of the biliary digestion, are specially treated, Carrots in one form or another are served at every meal, whether in soup, or with meat, or as a vegetable dish, considerable efficacy for cures being attributed to them.
For preparing Carrot juice, rub cleansed Carrots with a grater, and squeeze their juice through a clean cloth; then boil it, with, or without sugar, skimming carefully the while. When it no longer froths take it off the fire, and let it cool. Then strain it through a cloth, and pour it into glasses. A teaspoonful thereof may be taken several times in the day for subduing a troublesome cough, or as a quieting nervine cordial. Confectioners often mix the pectin of Carrots, residing principally in their outer rind, with fruit jelly as a diluent.
But "the Carrot when boiled, or stewed, cannot be regarded," says Dr. Hutchison, "as at all a digestible form of food; nor is it easily disposed of by the stomach; five and a half ounces of the cooked root remain there for three hours and twenty minutes." The yellow core of the Carrot is the part which is difficult of digestion by some persons, not the outer red layer, the thickness of which is a test of the goodness of the root.
For a Potage of Carrots (Creole), "Clean, and cut up fine, four very red Carrots, two large onions, one turnip, and two sticks of celery. Put these to fry with a piece of butter the size of an egg, and about a teaspoonful of sugar. Brown slightly, and pour in four or five teaspoonfuls of boiling water. Simmer for a quarter of an hour, and turn all into the soup kettle, with salt and pepper to taste, adding a bouquet of herbs, thyme, parsley, a few cloves, and a bay-leaf, tied together with thread. Pour in a quart of boiling water; cover, and simmer gently for at least two hours; the vegetables must become perfectly soft. Mash through a sieve, and return to the fire, adding a pint of milk; when boiling stir in a teaspoonful of flour that has been well blended in a little cold water, or milk. Let it boil a minute or two, and serve at once with croutons".
Being boiled sufficiently in a little water, and mashed into a pulp, Carrots will sweeten, and heal a putrid indolent sore if applied fresh from time to time. The Carrot poultice was first used by Salzer, for mitigating the pain, and correcting the stench of foul ulcers. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, when writing to Dr. W. Hunt, 1863, tells him how a man's heel which was severely wounded at the battle of Fredericksburg was treated: "Dr. Bigelow does nothing but keep the wound open, making the patient use for this purpose a little plug of Carrot, which is handy enough, and seems to agree very well with the wound".
"The great Achilles, who had shown his zeal In healing wounds, died of a wounded heel. Accursed heel, that killed a hero stout, Oh! had your mother known that you were out, Death had not entered at the trifling part, Which still defies the small Chirurgeon's art With corns, and bunions, (not the glorious John Who wrote the book we all have pondered on), Big tender bunions, bound in fleshy hose, To Pilgrim's Progress unrelenting foes".
When Carrots are eaten as a vegetable, remarkably little of their solid nutriment is so digested as to become absorbed into the system, but this passes off from the bowels as excrementitious waste, (to the extent of nearly 40 per cent of the vegetable taken), though without causing diarrhoea, or other intestinal disturbance. Dishes at table which contain Carrots, particularly in puree, are said to be "a la Crecy." A tea made from the Carrot plant, sliced root, and leafy top bruised, some of which tea is drunk each night and morning, proves of excellent use when a disposition to gouty acids, and to gravel prevails. If cows are fed long on Carrots, they begin to pass bloody urine. In one thousand parts of the Carrot, there are ninety-five of sugar. and only three of starch. Recently M. Charrin kept some. rabbits fed on Carrots which had been sterilised of their microbes, whilst other rabbits were kept on Carrots still retaining their microbes from the soil. The former animals soon died from corrupt products within their intestines; but the latter rabbits continued to thrive.
A Manchester physician has told recently of an alleged cure for consumption by the simple remedy of eating raw Carrot; which method certainly seems to have proved itself well worth a trial. In the British Flora Medica, 1830, it is stated, "Margraf directs that the recent roots of Carrot should be cut, well washed, and beaten into a pulp, from which the juice is to be expressed through a sieve, and reduced by heating to the consistence of honey, in which state it may be used at table instead of sugar, and is well adapted for the consumptive coughs of young children; also against worms".
For delicate persons, who find it best to dine in the middle of the day on plain foods, an excellent supper vegetable is a fair-sized Carrot boiled whole so as to retain its aromatic properties; then split into quarters, and warmed afresh for being served hot. It acts as a nervine sedative, whilst being cordial and restorative. A sense of mental invigoration will follow, and the digestion of this estimable root will be readily performed, without preventing the sleep.
To make a puree of Carrots: take one pound of cleansed Carrots, peeled and washed, put them into cold water with a little salt, bring them to the boil, then strain and rinse them, and place them in the stewpan, with enough light stock to cover, adding a dust of castor sugar. Simmer the Carrots until tender, then rub them into a paste with three plainly-boiled potatoes, mashing this through a hair sieve (adding a pat of butter, or a little cream, except for a person with disposition to biliousness), stir till boiling, then serve.
The small purple flower which grows in the middle of the umbel crowning a full grown Carrot plant, has been found of benefit for mitigating epilepsy.