Before coming to the U.S., I had never seen a baby carrot. “They are so cute!” – I thought. I didn’t know where they come from until last night my husband said: “You know, baby carrots are actually large carrots that are peeled and shaped, right?” Nope. Had no idea.
Growing up, my grandparents and I used to plant and pick all kinds of fruits and vegetables – potatoes, peas, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, raspberries, peas, pumpkins, cherries… You get the picture. So, when I began living in the States, imagine my awe as every apple in the store looked, in my eyes, the same. I kept saying: “They don’t look anything like that coming from the tree?!” This perfection-obsession is why baby carrots started. Here, you seem to be taught that if produce doesn’t look perfect and has blemishes, you shouldn’t buy it – even the FDA says so. In the 1970s, thousands of tons of carrots were discarded yearly due to shape, size and coloring. To maximize human carrot consumption, production practices changed starting with Mike Yurosek, a California farmer, who “made” the first baby carrots and they became a huge success. You can read a very well-written story about him here.
Today’s controversy surrounding baby carrots is their production. Before packaging the vegetable goes through a chlorine-and-water wash, which some deem unsafe. However, most ready-to-eat fruits and veggies apparently are cleaned in the same fashion to remove bacteria and preserve the products. While I don’t terribly like the idea of my fresh produce being washed in a chemical solution, it seems to be a common practice to prevent illness. Check out what the World Health Organization wrote in their review “Surface decontamination of fruits and vegetables eaten raw.”
Lessons learned: baby carrots are “natural”; if you don’t want to consume bacteria or chemical traces, wash all produce before eating it.