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August 2009
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Big Vs. Small – The Carrot Debate

About two months ago friends of mine were in visiting for a wedding and we decided to do an appetizer brunch out on the deck before we headed off to watch other good friends of ours exchange nuptials. The two guys headed out on a run and my friend J and I headed down to the grocery store. What better snack can you pick than fresh vegetables and some dips. Perusing the produce section we opted for ‘regular’ carrots over the packaged baby carrots. And since then I haven’t gone back!

Sure it is a pain to peel and cut the carrots but the taste is definitely worth the effort.

Baby Carrots are put through a chlorine wash to make them look the way they do

Once upon a time I had heard that in order to make baby carrots they were dipped in acid, chlorine and other harmful chemicals to make them look and taste perfect. At the time I did not really eat that many carrots and when I did buy them I went for the convenience of the baby ones – regardless of how they were made.

How is the baby carrot made? According to the World Carrot Museum there are actually two types of baby carrots, ‘true’ and ‘manufactured.’ The difference? True baby carrots are carrots grown to the ‘baby stage’ that is long before it reaches the mature size, either because of thinning or as a specialty item. A true baby carrot resembles a mature carrot, a pointed tip and a strong shoulder. The ‘manufactored’ baby carrot was invented by Mike Yurosek, a Californian farmer that was tired of throwing away disfigured carrots. Instead he took these unappealing carrots, cut them into 5 cm/2 in sections and then peeled them. The end result, what we know as baby carrots.

What about the talk of acid, chlorine, pesticides, etc. From what I have read it depends on the farming process both for true carrots, baby or otherwise, and manufactured carrots. If you buy organic you’ll avoid all the chemicals.

Why mature carrots are better

Back to the debate between a mature carrot and a ‘manufactured’ baby carrot (True baby carrots can also be considered as mature carrots for this argument). To make the ‘manufactured’ baby carrot the farmer peels and prunes away much the nutrient value; most of the nutrients in carrots are in the skin and just below that. Finally the chlorine uncovered, non-organic farmers wash their carrots in chlorine as a disinfectant and to preserve the colour. According to both the FDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency this ‘free’ chlorine is not harmful to humans. Personally I’ll stick to the organic varieties that are washed in a citrus based solution.

‘Manufactured’ baby carrots are convenient and cute but they lack in the nutrients and flavour of mature carrots. I’ll be sticking to my mature carrots despite the inconvenience. And just as an added bonus, mature carrots are significantly cheaper than their manufactured counterparts.