Dear PWN,

“I buy pre-washed baby carrots for convenience reasons. Today, they tasted like chemicals… why?”

I thought this was such a great question. First, let me distinguish between baby carrots and pre-cut baby carrots. Real baby carrots are carrots that are grown and picked early – they are young and small and have a slightly different taste than more mature carrots. Real baby carrots are harder to find, but they are delicious.

Pre-cut baby carrots are mature carrots that have been run through the cutting machine to give them their perfectly rounded, bite-sized shape. The first pre-cut baby carrot was invented in 1986 as a result of a farmer having too many deformed or misshaped carrots. He didn’t want these to go to waste, so he sent them through a potato peeler and a green bean cutter, and created baby-cut carrots. Now, baby-cut carrots are made from a type of regular carrot that is specially bred to contain more sugar than other carrots, and also to have a brighter orange color. This may be why kids love baby-cut carrots so much – they are sweet and colorful!

Prepackaged baby carrots are everywhere, and like the PWN reader stated, they are SO convenient! Kids love them, they save time because you don’t need to scrub/peel/slice them, they are perfectly sized for dipping, and you can even buy them in individual bags which makes them extra easy to use for snacks and lunches.

So, why would anyone take the alternate route and buy carrots that are bunched together and covered in dirt?

Well, apparently after they are cut, pre-cut baby carrots are dipped into a solution of water and chlorine. Since they no longer have their protective skin, the water and chlorine solution is a way to clean them and prevent bacteria from growing. The carrot only stays in the solution for 5 minutes or less, and is then dried using a centrifugal drier.

So, my reader was exactly right when she said her baby carrots taste like chemicals! I am actually disappointed to learn that this is where baby-cut carrots come from. Wouldn’t we all rather have a fresh, misshaped carrot than a tiny baby carrot that is perfectly rounded and dipped in chlorine? A water and chlorine solution is actually very typical for washing food products, and some believe it to be perfectly safe and effective. However, I would personally much rather hand-wash my fruits and vegetables in my own fresh water.

I recommend buying real carrots and preparing them yourself. This takes more time, but then again I have repeatedly said that eating good, healthy whole foods is more time-consuming than eating convenience foods. If you buy organic carrots, you can just take a good scrubber and scrub the surface under water and then slice the carrot. When the carrots are not organic, I usually use a peeler first and then slice it. I find that real carrots taste much fresher than the pre-cut baby carrots, and scrubbing and slicing is a quick process once you get used to it. I haven’t done a financial analysis on buying pre-cut baby carrots vs. buying fresh carrots, but I imagine you save some money buying fresh as well.

Thanks for the great question!

1 comment:

  1. Daughter of a geniusJune 25, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    I hadn't had a real carrot in a while, and when i recently tried one I was blown away by how good it tasted! My mom used to cut them into sticks with a crinkle cutter- I would guess that kids would go for this cool french fry look over baby carrots :) Actually, i know they would because my friends always wanted some at lunchtime!