The store, the farm, the ground
When was the last time that you ate a carrot that wasn’t a “baby” carrot?
Today over 70% of carrots sold are in the form of a baby carrot in a bag, this is a great convenience that doubled carrot consumption from 1987 to 1997, and it was up to 12 pounds per person in America in 2006.
But this bag? This bag has made me think (albeit a bit too much), about the humble carrot and people’s relationship with where their food comes from. Can you answer any of the following questions?
Where does a carrot come from?
How do carrots get to the grocery store?
How do the carrots get into the ground?
Have you seen carrots with the greens attached?
Do you know that the greens grow above ground and the carrot is the root?
Are you lost, have you been to a farm lately?
As with many aspects of our food system, our society has become detached from not just the farm, but understanding how food is grown.
When most people taste a carrot that has been pulled from the soil, they are amazed at the flavor of the carrot. It has a crispier crunch. It is not wet and slimy, and definitely not like a “baby” carrot from the bag at the supermarket. It is a completely different product. It might even be worth learning how to peel and cut your own. (FYI, carrots don’t have babies.)
So Let’s Start with Carrots
Our vegetables seem to come to us, in a magical way. Even if you can understand the concept of them growing. They actually materialize out of thin air, or soil, with what seems like a bit of alchemy.
You see a seed is put into nutrient rich soil and with a proper amount of water and sunlight, at the proper temperature a carrot can be pulled from the ground in 70 to 80 days. Easy enough?
Carrots have been bred, by cross-pollination to be sweeter than ever. They have selected the seeds so that they can use a machine to harvest them out of the ground and so that the size of all of your baby carrots, can be easily cut by machines.
This leaves the home gardener with an advantage to grow carrots from heirloom seeds that produce carrots with more flavor for eating not for machines.
Then after they come out of the ground. Our modern science has determined that at 35 degrees Fahrenheit and 95–100% humidity, you can make your carrot last in storage for 7–9 months. And, for an extra level of food safety, all of those “baby” carrots have taken a chlorine bath, that isn’t all that worse than chlorinated drinking water, but wouldn’t you like to skip this if you can.
I can completely understand the convenience of these vitamin and fiber filled snacks. As a person that can remember the 80’s, I was one of those girls that peeled and cut their own carrots for lunch. I would have loved to have had all that work done by someone else. But after eating enough carrots that came straight out of the ground, I can appreciate the difference and willingly peel and cut my own now.
In a time when people can’t tell you if a vegetable grows on a tree or a bush or in the ground, how do you know when one is good or bad?
You have to eat more vegetables and keep cooking them yourself. With practice it becomes easier.
Julie Moreno is a chef and writer, now trying to get more people to cook their own food. Find her blog at The Wooden Cutting Board on Twitter @juliehouse and Facebook @thewoodencuttingboard