People think of carrots as a sturdy, crunchy veggie, but many people are surprised by how prone they are to cracking. After all, none of Bugs Bunny’s carrots seemed to be cracked or split!
So you may be wondering: Why do carrots split? Are they still edible after they split? Is there a way to prevent carrots from cracking in the first place? Well, this article has the answers you are looking for!
Can’t Take the Pressure
The reason that carrots crack is something called turgor pressure. Turgor pressure describes the pressure that develops because carrots have water densely packed into their cells. That is a good thing most of the time because it also makes carrots hard and crisp — one of the traits that make carrots so yummy to eat.
However, when that pressure balance gets disrupted, it also makes the carrots fragile in this way. The pressure gets out of balance, and there is bound to be a reaction.
So the carrots that take in an abundant amount of water when they are growing will crack open. Later, during the harvest and after that during processing, how they are handled can also trigger a crack. When they are handled carelessly, it is more likely they will develop a crack. But that’s not all.
If carrots dry out after harvesting, they can also crack. This tendency also unveils itself in reaction to certain temperatures and fertilizers, and as a result of interaction with certain soils. Some carrots are just more prone to cracking than others!
So you should not lament over cracked carrots. It is a natural phenomenon — plan for it to happen when you grow carrots without fail.
So They’re Cracked! But Can You Still Eat Them?
Yes! That’s good news. They are still okay to eat, even if they are cracked. They may not be the most attractive carrot, but you and Bugs Bunny would both gobble them and be very happy. Your investment in growing carrots is in no way a loss because they are cracked.
Some note that when a carrot is cracked, it may take some extra effort to make sure the carrot is clean. Dirt can get down in those cracks and crevices and make them a bit more challenging to clean out. But it is worth the effort for you to do so! The taste and crunchiness of the carrot are not impacted by it being cracked.
What Is That Inside the Cracked Carrot?
If you’re curious, you might notice that the cracked carrot looks different than you expected on the inside. What’s going on there? Are there two different layers in that carrot?
Carrots have an inner core in the middle of the carrot that usually remains intact even when the outer layer of the carrot splits. The center of the carrot is called the xylem. It’s not that it can’t or won’t crack, but the xylem is usually protected by the outer layer, thus breaking less often.
The xylem delivers water and nutrients from the soil and provides it to the rest of the plant. The outer layer of the carrot is called the phloem, and it distributes energy from the leaves to the roots.
So Once Carrots Are Harvested, How Long Do Carrots Last?
Left out in your pantry, carrots are probably good for less than a week. Within your refrigerator, you are more likely to get a full week of shelf life. You can extend that life longer by wrapping them in a wet paper towel and placing them inside of a plastic bag.
Best of all, you can let carrots remain in your fridge soaking in water for a full month. More details on this later, but you can also preserve your carrots for the longest amount of time by blanching and freezing them in airtight containers.
How Can You Tell If Carrots Are Bad, Rotten, or Spoiled?
As a general rule, whole carrots last longer because they have their protective skin. But storing them in that wet paper towel or soaking them in water in a sealed container will indeed help them last longer.
Warning: baby carrots with their skins removed will always spoil first. If there is moisture left in the bag, the baby carrots will spoil faster. Baby carrots can spoil in less than a week. Pat the carrots dry and place them in a sealed plastic freezer bag in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer for the longest-lasting solution.
You can look at carrots many times and tell if they have gone bad. They will have white dots called white blush. This blush is a result of dehydration and a sign they need to be eaten quickly. If the white is instead more of a slimy, mushy mess, you should not eat them. More details on this are below.
Sometimes carrots develop dark spots instead or signs of mold. These are tricky cases sometimes because these dark spots can be cut off, and the carrot can usually be saved for quick use. But if the dark spots or mold are numerous, that is a different story. It is best to throw them out. The same holds true if the carrot smells off in any way.
If everything looks okay with the carrot, you should still consider its overall quality. Over time, carrots lose much of their crunch and firmness. You can feel when carrots have gone bad because they become slimy and mushy. As you might guess, the carrots at this point should not be eaten.
What Are All the Ways Carrots Can Be Stored to Extend Their Life?
The best way carrots can be stored in the refrigerator are whole and unpeeled. They should be in a plastic bag. These whole carrots can be stored wrapped in a wet paper towel or sitting in water to prolong their shelf life.
Baby carrots are best when dried off and placed in a plastic bag inside your refrigerator’s produce drawer.
Carrots will last longer if they are frozen. They will need to be blanched first and frozen in freezer-safe containers. In this way, frozen carrots can last at least six months. Many people say they can last up to eight months.
What Exactly Is Blanching?
Blanching is a process of boiling food for a few short minutes and then flash freezing it right away for the same number of minutes to preserve much of the freshness of the vegetable. Follow these eight steps to blanch your carrots.
- Boil a large pot of saltwater. You should use a heavy pot and have about a gallon of water per pound of food you plan to add to the pan.
- Rinse your carrots and clean them thoroughly. Again, take special notice if you have carrots that are cracked to clean them thoroughly.
- Gather a bowl of ice water while your water is boiling and place it next to where you will drain your hot veggies.
- Once the water boils, submerge your food into the boiling water. Set your timer for three to five minutes. When the water boils again (which should be one minute after adding carrots or you’re adding too much food for your amount of water), you can start your timer. Keep the heat on high while blanching. Don’t overcook, though.
- Drain your carrots and then put them into the bowl of cold water for the same amount of time as they boiled.
- Drain the carrots after cooling.
- Pour the carrots onto a clean, dry towel and pat them dry. Remember, any remaining water will turn to ice, so you want to get them dry.
- Place your carrots into freezer-safe containers and seal, removing as much air as possible as you do so. Cool and place your carrots into the freezer. You can also use freezer bags and put them into your freezer. Remember that you can add a label with the name of the vegetable and the date to each bag if needed.
A Variety of Tips About Storing Your Carrots
- If you buy your carrots from the farmer’s market, definitely cut off the greens while you wash your carrots as well.
- If you store your carrots in the veggie drawer of your refrigerator, they can be impacted if you store them with fruits. Bananas, pears, and apples can reduce the shelf life of carrots. That’s one of the reasons to store carrots inside a plastic bag.
- If you plan to use your carrots in a few days, you can store them just as well in a cool pantry or on your kitchen counter. They don’t turn mushy at room temperature as they do in the fridge, but you need to keep them away from heat.
- If you are putting carrots in water for the longest possible storage time in your refrigerator, change the water whenever it turns cloudy.
- Peeled or sliced carrots can be stored for a few extras days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If your cooked carrots have any signs of mold, spots, or odor, toss the carrots out. The same thing is true if you refrigerate the carrots for more than 10 days.