Carrots, baby, carrots

by Denis Faye | October 1, 2010

Have you ever wondered how they make baby carrots? Of course you have! Everyone ponders stuff like that, right? Right?

Okay, so maybe I am indeed the biggest nerd in the room, but I suppose it’s better than my previous stance on baby carrots, which was one of disdain. I’d somehow gotten it into my head that these bite-sized roots were made by either 1) plucking the poor little buggers from the ground before their time, or 2) wastefully whittled down a regular-sized carrot, like in Looney Tunes when they run a giant tree through a mill and it comes out as a pencil. Either way, I decided that I was a big man and therefore I was going to eat big carrots!

But then one day, I dropped a 20 pound kettle bell on my toe and, to my complete surprise, it didn’t instantly pop back into shape so I could resume chasing that damn roadrunner. It occurred to me that perhaps the writers of the Warner Brothers cartoons stretched the truth slightly and therefore I should rethink my stance on baby carrots. Also, this new ad campaign from “a bunch of carrot farmers” swayed me a little.

So I investigated how baby carrots are made. In days of yore, they used to make them of deformed bigger carrots that would otherwise be discarded or used for animal feed. In my mind, that’s pretty cool – sort of an outreach program for disadvantaged produce – but they don’t do that anymore. Now, according to Snopes, they breed special carrots that have a higher sugar content and are oranger than conventional carrots. In a process that involves, among other things, a two-story carrot harvester and automated carrot cutters, the larger veggies are plucked, cleaned, chopped into sections, shaved, and bagged.

It’s a drastic departure away from my carrot-harvesting method, which is to pull them out of the ground with my hand, wash them in the sink and eat them. Would I like to have a two-story carrot harvester? Well, of course, who wouldn’t? But I think my method is much closer to how the bunch of carrots you buy at the farmer’s market came to be.

So I’m of two minds about baby carrots. On one hand, they’re the cause of people eating more vegetables. In 2002, Americans ate 11 pounds of carrots a year, which is almost double the number from 1987. Also, they’re one of the few veggies I can get my produce-resistant daughter to eat. And for all those out there who still buy the whole low-carb notion that carrots are to be avoided, baby carrots are still super healthy, even with their elevated sugar content. One serving, about 7 carrots, is 30 calories, 1g protein, 7g carbs, 2g fiber and 4g sugar. You’ll also get 234% the RDA for vitamin A and a little bit of almost every other vitamin and mineral.

On the other hand, that’s a hell of a lot petrol-wasting, industrial machinery to do something that Bugs Bunny does just for fun. Is it really that hard to wash, peel, and chop up some regular carrots? Why do we always have to make everything so complicated?

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