Most of us like convenience, and with that in mind, foods such as baby carrots were conceived by clever food processors to satisfy our needs.
These little orange carrots can make a hell of a feast if you know how to play some magic with carrot recipes.
However, just like any other processed food, baby carrots aren’t short of controversies and disappointments, especially when not treated as per manufacturers’ instructions.
So, what really makes baby carrots turn slimy and sometimes have a thin white layer after being stored for some time?
Generally, two scientific processes are involved. Condensation, which causes the sliminess and dehydration within the baby carrots that causes the whitening.
To get a good understanding of these phenomena, we need to understand what baby carrots are and how they are processed.
What are Baby Carrots?
Most baby carrot fans know this but for those still in the dark, baby carrots are simply deformed carrots that have been peeled and shaped into smaller finger-like carrots.
They are not a particular variety of carrots or miniature versions of the normal carrots.
According to foodnetwork.com, these carrots were invented by a carrot farmer in California in a bid to revive a struggling carrot industry at the time.
The farmer wanted to get a way around the increasing unsalable carrot rejects that were considered ugly in the market due to their irregular shapes and sizes.
He found a way of reselling the deformed carrots by using industrial equipment to cut, shape, and package them into what we see now in the supermarkets.
Personally, I think this was a brilliant idea to reduce food wastage.
If you are a carrot farmer, you will appreciate this. Just imagine how many tones of carrots would be going to waste every year just because of some aesthetic reasons!
How are Baby Carrots Processed?
The deformed full-sized carrots are first washed and sorted according to size.
They are then peeled to remove the skin.
The remaining piece is then cut and shaped into small pieces measuring around 2 inches using specialized carrot cutting machines.
The pieces are then polished to give them that appealing smooth outline.
They are then washed in chlorinated water and thoroughly rinsed to get rid of any chlorine residue.
Sometimes blanching is then done to deactivate spoilage enzymes and soften the product.
They are then packed in moist bags ready for the market.
The moist bag is important in keeping the carrot cuts hydrated.
What Makes Your Baby Carrots Slimy?
The last sentence above here about the moist bag is where it all begins.
Since their protective outer skin has been peeled off, the baby carrots are left vulnerable to moisture loss.
The processors compensate for this by packing them in moist bags to prevent them from drying out.
The wetness is what gives them that appealing fresh look and crunchiness when you open that bag immediately after purchasing it.
The problem comes in when you don’t want to use them immediately and want to keep them for a few days.
If you store them in a refrigerator for longer periods than recommended by the processor, the moisture in the bag will condense into water that will settle on the surface of the carrot cuts.
This will increase the water activity levels of the carrots making it a perfect spot for molds and fungi to grow.
These molds and fungi feed on the sugars in the baby carrots and pass out excretions that cause the sliminess.
This means that a sliminess in carrot cuts signifies the onset of rotting.
What About the White Film You See on their Surface?
The white blush you see on the surface of a baby carrot is a result of dehydration caused by loss of moisture.
It is the opposite side of baby carrot quality loss by condensation.
Contrary to popular belief, the white blush has nothing to do with the chlorine used in washing the carrots during processing.
I should also add that a little bit of chlorine in cleaning water is not harmful to humans.
In fact, it is recommended by the FDA that water used for cleaning fresh fruits and vegetables be treated with between 50ppm to 200ppm of chlorine.
Even though baby carrots are in sealed moist bags, they will still lose moisture since their protective skin has been removed.
This moisture loss through dehydration happens in baby carrots since their internal cells have been exposed to environmental agents such as light and oxygen.
They shouldn’t be a course for concern since they are not harmful and can be easily washed off or removed by rehydrating the carrots.
How to Prevent Sliminess in Baby Carrots
There are a few things you can do to prevent baby carrot sliminess.
Here are some steps you can take to enable you to enjoy your baby carrots while still fresh.
- Always Check the date markings
If you are always a victim of consuming spoiled food, chances are you don’t pay attention to the date markings on the food package.
According to eatbydate.com, properly stored baby carrots have a shelf life of 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator.
Always make a point of checking the dates before purchasing the product.
- Use them as soon as possible
The thing with baby carrots is that they are not meant to last long.
Processing them makes them vulnerable to the slightest changes in environmental conditions.
The best way to enjoy them fresh is to buy just enough for immediate use.
- Store them in a freezer
If using them immediately is not an option, you can still store them for future use.
You will need to remove them out of their original plastic bag and blanch them (if they aren’t blanched).
See these directions for blanching vegetables at home.
Trim them into smaller pieces to increase their surface area for quick freezing and thawing later on.
Place them in freeze-safe containers and put them in a freezer.
This may extend their shelf life to about 6 months.
- Store them in the crisper
If you aren’t comfortable storing them in the freezer, you can follow the above steps and store them in a crisper instead.
A crisper is a compartment in the refrigerator that is designed to store fresh products for prolonged periods of time.
Modern refrigerators have this compartment with its own settings to regulate the humidity in that area.
If you decide to store the baby carrots in the crisper, you will need to cover them with paper towels to absorb moisture and prevent condensation.
They might not last longer here than in the freezer, but they will still give you some few days to prepare your recipe.
How to Prevent the White Blush on Baby Carrots
As mentioned before, the white film on baby carrots is a result of dryness caused by moisture loss from the carrots.
This means that fixing the problem requires coming up with ways that can prevent loss of moisture from the product.
Here is what you can do.
- Rehydrate them
Obviously, loss of water can only be treated by adding water.
If you see the white blush on your baby carrot, rehydrate them by sprinkling some water on their surface.
You can also wash them off in water and consume them immediately.
- Store them in a humid area
The crisper I talked about earlier should take care of this.
Make sure you check your settings on the refrigerator manual to have the right settings for storing your baby carrots.
Also, remember to always keep them covered to prevent excessive moisture loss.
So, What Happens to Already Slimy Carrots?
As I said earlier, sliminess in baby carrots is a sign of the onset of rotting.
This means that microorganisms are quickly dividing on the carrot and will consequently find their way into your stomach if you eat the carrots.
Also, slimy baby carrots can be very disgusting just by looking at them.
I don’t think you should take the risk of eating something that you know is on the verge of rotting.
Toss it and let it be a lesson learnt.