Famous for their bright orange hues, long cylindrical shape, and satisfying crunch, carrots are one of the most popular and versatile veggies available at the market. The USDA reports that carrots remain one of the most widely-consumed vegetables in American households. Cartoon rabbits, school-aged kids, and busy adults all have one common taste, it seems: carrots!
Carrots are a root vegetable, rich in beta-carotene, vitamin K1, fiber, potassium, and plenty of antioxidants. East to grow at home, many Americans enjoy planting and harvesting their own carrots from home vegetable gardens in the backyard.
No one wants a fresh bundle of carrots to spoil before they can be enjoyed. Let’s talk about some of the ways to tell if a carrot has spoiled, as well as ways to extend their shelf life.
Unlike fresh meat and dry goods, produce does not usually have an expiration date printed on the packaging at the grocery store. Of course, fruits and veggies fresh from the garden or farmer’s market do not have packaging at all.
Carrots have a relatively long shelf life compared to other fruits and vegetables with their rich supply of vitamins and nutrients. But the short answer to the question “How long do carrots last?” is this: very variable, but usually up to 4 weeks. For more details, just read on!
Does it seem like vegetables are always brought home with the best of intentions, but then they disappear into the crisper and are forgotten until it’s too late? We have all heard the old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Whole carrots, when properly stored in a cool, dry place (like the fridge), typically last 4 to 5 weeks.
Try this reminder: When carrots go into a drawer, put a note on the fridge reminding the household that yummy, nutritious snacks await in the crisper. This may help veggies like carrots to get eaten before they go bad.
Pre-packaged baby carrots will have a sell-by date printed on the bag. Typically, baby carrots will last 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator. Carrots that have been cooked will last 1 or 2 weeks in the fridge.
The reason whole, fresh carrots have a longer shelf life than baby carrots or cooked carrots is because of their protective skin. All carrots fresh from the soil have a rough outer layer.
This skin is rich in nutrients and helps preserve the life of the vegetable. Baby carrots have been peeled and cut into their signature cylindrical shape, thus their protective coating has been removed, exposing them to moisture and other elements that speed up the decaying process.
There is a lot of confusion around baby carrots, which are apparently the single most popular root vegetable in the US.
One of the misconception is that all baby carrots are made of big carrots on an industrial scale by peeling and cutting, then polishing to small “baby” shaped carrots. This is happening, but labelled properly with “baby cuts”. By default baby carrots are what you expect - carrots grown only to a baby stage.
The other, somewhat true claim is that baby carrots are treated with chlorine. This is true, but only with a small amount for antimicrobal purposes. However, baby carrots and carrots in general are nowhere near “soaked in chlorine”, as some suggest.
It is not too difficult to tell if carrots have spoiled. Healthy carrots are known for their nice, crisp crunch. As they begin to rot, they get soft, mushy, and even slimy. Once carrots begin to spoil, they should not be eaten.
After a couple of weeks, carrots may begin to display tiny, white specks on the surface of the skin. This is referred to as “white blush” and indicates that the vegetable has become dehydrated. As long as it is not soft, it is safe to consume carrots with white blush, but it is a warning sign that rot is imminent and the carrots should be eaten quickly.
A good rule of thumb for testing to see whether a carrot is safe to eat is the snap test. If there is a questionable carrot that has been in the fridge for a few weeks or has any white spots on it, try breaking it in half. If the carrot crisply snaps in half, then it is still fresh enough to eat. If the carrot bends without easily breaking into two pieces, or if it feels soft or rubbery, then it has spoiled and cannot be safely consumed.
Another way to tell if carrots are still safe to eat is by smelling them. Take a whiff of that carrot with the white blush. If it doesn’t smell like it did when it was first brought home, then it probably is not safe to eat. Bacterial growth is what causes rotting food to emit an unpleasant odor as it breaks down the matter in the food. If something stinks, it is rotting.
Remember, there are always health risks associated with consuming spoiled food, so be sure to eat carrots while they are still fresh and chock full of vitamins and nutrients. When it comes to food, it may be best to err on the side of caution. When in doubt, don’t. If the food looks, feels, or smells different than it is supposed to, it is time to throw it out.
To get the best results from those carrots plucked fresh from the garden, store them unpeeled in the refrigerator. The carrot’s skin acts as a moisture barrier and a protective covering that ensures freshness.
Carrots can be stored in a cool, dry cellar or similar storage space. Remember, carrots grow underground and thrive in cool, loose soil. So, when storing them in a root cellar, fill a container with sawdust or sand and bury the carrots inside. In this cool environment, carrots can stay fresh for months.
While some homesteaders may have access to a root cellar, most of us have a different food storage option: refrigerators and freezers.
As we mentioned, carrots are a popular crop to grow at home in small vegetable gardens. To keep them fresh in the refrigerator even longer than the typical 4 weeks, try these tips.
1) Dry carrots in the sun Try not to take the newly harvested carrots inside right away. Lay them out in the sun to dry for a couple of hours. This will help seal the skin and provide an extra layer of protection.
2) Delay the washing While carrots will need to be washed before they are cooked, eaten, or frozen, it is not always a good idea to wash them right away. The soil that remains on the carrot acts as another protective covering that keeps it dry and healthy longer.
3) Cut away the green Cut off the green foliage right at the root of the carrot. This will help keep the vegetable dry and delay rotting.
4) Keep them dry Moisture speeds up the decaying process. Place the carrots in a plastic bag to hold in cool air, with a few holes that allow for air circulation. Try placing a paper towel in the bag with the carrots to keep away moisture. Cool and dry is how carrots thrive.
To store baby carrots, leave them in a plastic bag and place them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Do not wash them until they are ready to be eaten, as this will just expose them to moisture, speeding up the rotting process. Remember, baby carrots have been peeled and no longer have a protective barrier, so they are even more susceptible to the elements.
For dishes that contain cooked carrots, place them in an airtight container and place them in the refrigerator within two hours of reaching room temperature. Refrigerated, cooked carrots can generally be eaten within two weeks.
Blanching and freezing carrots are another easy and effective way to keep carrots around for months to come. You can read more about blanching in the next chapter.
Yes, carrots can be frozen! Freezing carrots is a great, easy way to preserve a large harvest or just to keep a few carrots from spoiling in the refrigerator. To freeze carrots, first make sure they are clean. Scrub away any dirt or residue from the vegetable and rinse them well with water. Remove any green foliage from the heads and cut them into the preferred shape.
Cut the carrots into small sticks or round slices great for casseroles, shred them to be incorporated into a carrot cake, or simply freeze them whole. Most whole carrots fit nicely into gallon-sized freezer storage bags, so they can frozen whole quite easily.
Next, blanch the carrots.
Frozen carrots will last in the freezer for up to one year. Use a permanent marker to label the bags with the date so that the carrots can be consumed within one year.
Carrots contain many vitamins essential to a nutritious diet. Use these tips to keep carrots fresh longer and enjoy their benefits for months to come.