Friday Fact: Baby Carrots aren't infants!

I used to hate carrots.

When I was small, a raw carrot stick was like my mortal enemy. Those who tried to get me to eat them were convinced I should like them because carrots are so sweet. But to me, they were brash orange reeds of contemptuous and bitter disgust.

When a carrot stick was waved in front of my face, I would decline. Then refuse. Then run and hide. Then finally weep in desperation. Please, no! Anything but a carrot! Pass the broccoli, the brussels, but let the heinous orange thing lie!

I totally understood Anne Shirley feeling insulted beyond repair when Gilbert Blythe called her "carrots" - even if he was exceedingly adorable.

Then, somewhere in my high school years, I tried a baby carrot.

I was not converted. Not yet. But I didn't hate them.

Then, slowly, through college, they grew on me (well, not literally, you understand. I did regularly bathe). I discovered that I ADORED baby carrots when roasted with other root vegetables in a pot roast. When I moved to Washington, this became my Sunday Special.

I began to munch on them raw for snacks. Serving them with lunch to my new husband.

Slowly, surely, they became delicious to me.

Then I learned a disasterous truth. "Baby Carrots" did not mean carrots plucked in their sweet, crispy infancy. Those carrots were not tiny and adorably round by nature. No. It was by design.

By diabolical design.

I learned that "baby carrots" were actually deformed adult carrots that had been savagely stripped of their outer skin, cut down to size, shaved to shape, and DROWNED IN CHLORINE to preserve their color - what with now being SKINLESS and all!! (sound effect: woman shrieking)

After that, I could not look at a bag of those adorable little vegetables without a feeling of disilusionment and mistrust.

So I looked into it.

Turns out the Chlorine thing is a mixture of true and false information.

Fact: Adult carrots that are misshapen are machine cut and wittled down to baby carrot shape - this to find a use for the oddly shaped adult carrots that would otherwise have to be discarded.

Rumor: Baby carrots are soaked in chlorine to preserve the color because they are skinless, and so are subject to air-rusting.

Fact: Chlorine *can* be used in the process - but not to preserve the color, as was suspected in the 80's when this whole scandal started (I'm so behind the times). The main purpose is to protect the carrots from contaminants. After being soaked in bleach, the carrots are rinsed in potable water. Supposedly, the carrots don't reach consumers in a chlorine-drenched state.

Rumor: When you leave a baby carrot out, it turns white. This is the Chlorine coming to the surface.

Fact: the white coloring is caused by dehydration, and would happen to a carrot (or any vegetable) that you pulled from your own garden.

Fact: baby cut carrots ARE specifically bred to be sweeter (you know, for kids!) and ARE specifically bred to be a more vibrant orange - and to carry that same vibrant orange throughout the carrot (the center is not lighter, as it is in standard carrots).

Fact: The use of chlorine as an antimicrobial treatment is an accepted practice for all pre-cut, ready to eat veggies (CFIA section 4.4).

Okay, so the chlorine thing might not be the national emergency that it tried to be in the 80's. But even if it's an 'accepted practice', the whole thing still makes THIS girl a bit squeemish. I don't like chlorine in my hair from the swimming pool. I definnitely don't want it in my MOUTH (or anywhere after that)!

So, for any of you that might be as skittish about the whole thing as I am - there is hope.

There IS still such a thing as a true baby carrot - one that is harvested in its infancy and is naturally tiny. Check your label. If the ingredients say "baby carrot" (and especially "organic baby carrot") you're in business - and the true test is to check whether the carrot still has a good 'shoulder'. See?

 If it says "baby-cut carrot", that means it's the kind cut down and polished by machine.

OR you could, like, grow your own. Which I would be no help with. I can't deliberately grow ANYTHING.

I guess I'm going to have to get used to the original carrot stick (shudder) and learn to love it.

Maybe I'll just stick to cucumbers.

**Post Edit**
Thanks, Laura, for the correction on Gilbert's last name! I remember thinking "Grape" looked really weird - and even If she had married him she would have been Anne Grape? Someone didn't think that through.

Clearly I need to see the series again! Green Gables-a-Thon this holiday! Woot!


Rischelle said...

We had a yummy crop of carrots this year! They weren't baby carrots, but they were super sweet. Delicious!

Lara said...

I used to hate raw carrots as a kid, I felt like they could never be chewed sufficiently enough to be safe to swallow. I remember chewing on raw carrots for several minutes, waiting for them to be ready to swallow, but whenever I tried I would get a panic attack that they were going to choke me! Weird I know, especially because that didn't happen to me with any other food. I had heard that baby carrots were just shaved down big carrots, but I had never heard about the chlorine thing, hmmm I may have to switch to big carrots now.
And I know you know this and just made an accidental slip on the name, but as an avid Anne of GG fan I had to clear up that the exceedingly adorable young man is Gilbert Blythe, not Gilbert Grape :) Although, if you are a Johnny Depp fan then Gilbert Grape may also be exceedingly adorable.

Jeff and Ari said...

You grow beautiful children ... so clearly you are an expert grow-er. Just perhaps not of the gardening variety :)!

Kim said...

I feel so enlightened! I love your Friday Facts!

Ro Ro Riot said...

I have NO idea why this post reminded me of this, but I suddenly had this memory of you pop into my head: family party at my parents' house on a summer evening many years ago. Me: the tiny, impressionable one biting enthusiastically into a lush, amazingly sweet wedge of watermelon. You: the older, really cool and smart cousin informing me that if I swallowed the seeds a huge watermelon would grow in my belly. Me: swearing I didn't believe you, but being extremely careful the rest of the night about swallowing the seeds.

Somehow this memory came back to me with only fond feelings. Thanks for that moment to remember. It made me smile.