The Truth About Baby Carrots
Tiny smooth carrots – which are perfect for snacking and dipping – don’t actually grow that way. Find out how they’re made, and why it’s OK to munch on them.
Baby carrots were invented by a California carrot farmer, Mike Yurosek. In the early 1980s, Yurosek found that many of his carrots were not saleable because they were “ugly” — they weren’t the size or shape that could be sold at the grocery store. Instead of tossing these “ugly” carrots, he used an industrial bean cutter to shape them into what are now called “baby carrots.” The success of baby carrots was overwhelming. By 1987, carrot consumption had increased by 30 percent. Today, baby carrots consist of 70 percent of total carrot sales.
Creating Baby Carrots
Bolthouse Farms is one company that grows and packages baby carrots. Scott LaPorta, president of Bolthouse Farms, explains that the company began noticing that broken pieces of carrots were cast aside. So they began peeling and shaping the broken and misshapen carrots into 2-inch pieces, and that’s how the idea of baby carrots came to be for Bolthouse Farms. “It was our solution to reducing food waste while providing consumers with an appealing and tasty new option,” he says. The mini carrots inspired additional carrot varieties for the company, including chips and “matchstix” cuts.
To give an idea of how baby carrots go from farm to table, LaPorta explained the way Bolthouse Farms does it. First, full-sized carrots are harvested from the fields, and are immediately put in trucks and taken to a facility in Bakersfield, Calif. There, they get washed and sorted by size, and then cut, peeled and polished into 2-inch pieces. The entire process, from harvesting to packaging, takes less than 48 hours.
One concern about baby carrots has been the rinsing process, especially when chlorine is used. However, since carrots do grow underground, there is a food safety concern. After being harvested, carrots receive a gentle wash in a small amount of chlorine (the amount is less than is present in everyday tap drinking water), a common practice used with fresh-cut produce. Before being dried and bagged, however, the carrots are thoroughly rinsed to remove any excess chlorine.
Because of the shaping and peeling of baby carrots, some of the nutrients are lost. However, baby carrots are still jam-packed with nutrition. One medium baby carrot provides 5 calories and 1 gram of carbs, and is free of fat and cholesterol. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin A: One baby carrot provides close to 30 percent of the recommended daily amount.
Purchasing and Storage
When purchasing baby carrots, check the “use by” date on the package. The wetness in the bag is normal. It’s actually filtered tap water that helps keep the vegetable hydrated. For the best quality, store unopened bags of baby carrots in the refrigerator and eat them within 30 days after the packaging date.
Photograph courtesy of Bolthouse Farms
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.