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Baby carrots: 24kt or fool’s gold?

Photo by cynthia hochswender

Between First Lady Michelle Obama’s plan to reinvent the public school lunch into something edible, and everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow, Miranda Kerr and your teenage daughter throwing all manner of vegetables and supplements into the food processor for a daily green juice cleanser, we’re all trying to eat healthier. While that can be easy in a place like Litchfield County, where fresh produce is just a farmstand away, there still remain grocery store purchases, especially during the winter months. But should one of our favorite veggie snacks be a staple, or a suspect?

To take a bit of schtick from Jerry Seinfeld, “What’s the deal with baby carrots?” Are they as pure as a newborn or as unholy as Rosemary’s baby? So round, so identical, so perfectly shaped for hummus, can something so wonderfully miniature really grow in nature? 

Of course not. 

While homemade “baby” carrots may be created by trimming and reshaping a regular carrot, the babies bought in bags are specially bred. Grown closer together to create extra small, extra thin carrots, they are pulled out early (at least 50 days before the growth of a regular carrot), then remolded and bathed in … chlorine. 

Yes, chlorine. So, are we eating public pool water? Is this Gwyneth-approved? The chlorine has not escaped controversy in the media, but nutritionists promise this is a much-needed step to fight off dangerous food-borne pathogens (such as E. coli, definitely not healthy). 

Baby carrot producers promise that the amount of chlorine is lower than the FDA limit, and the carrots are thoroughly rinsed in fresh water (worth noting: there are also traces of chlorine in most tap water). 

And no, the baby carrots are not dyed orange. But maybe the takeaway should be: If you’re someone who filters out your tap water, should you be filtering out your carrots? 

Any vegetables are better than no vegetables, and ultimately baby carrots fall in line with any packaged vegetables, such as lettuce, bought in the grocery store — perfectly safe. 

Baby carrots are no danger, but like those of us growing our own lettuce in the summer, growing your own carrots for homemade hummus could still have its own rewards.

 

The phantom menace: baby carrots in ginger

Adapted from a recipe by
Richard Blais for Food & Wine

 

1 bag of baby carrots, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon of lime juice, 1/2 cup chicken stock, 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, 1/4 teaspoon of paprika, 1/4 teaspoon of honey, salt and pepper to taste 

 

Parboil the baby carrots for about two minutes, until they’re still crisp but are on the verge of becoming tender. Heat the olive oil and then add the carrots and ginger and cook for a few minutes; the ginger should become fragrant and enticing. Add the chicken stock and cook it down, over medium heat, which should take about five minutes. Turn off the heat, add the butter and lime juice and honey and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you have any smoked salt, it goes particularly well with carrots.

— Recipe by
Cynthia Hochswender