Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Baby Carrots are a False Security

Have you ever gone to the grocery store and been amused by the apparent cleanliness of all the fruits and vegetables? Baby carrots stand out to me the most - packaged in a little bag, pre-washed, and ready to eat. In this little bag, details about our society's values manifest.

The shape of the carrots - all smooth and rounded off to perfection, the plastic bag used to hold them - complete protection from germy hands, these characteristics symbolize our culture’s disconnect from the very earth from which those carrots came.

Baby carrots represent convenience and conformity. Since carrots were not originally bred in the baby size, a new breed was made that was smaller and sweeter, just for attracting kids and those of us with a sweeter tooth. They are then processed and made into the little round carrots you eat right out of the bag.

There is some debate on whether it is safe to eat baby carrots that have been dipped in a chlorine/water mixture during processing. Although this is a low risk, it is an unnecessary exposure to small amounts of chlorine that could be avoided by either growing your own carrots or purchasing carrots that have not undergone this process in their journey from farm to table.

Mainstream American food culture also values conformity. We want all of our produce to have a similar shape. However, in nature, this is not always what we get

Nevertheless, we like things that are familiar to us, because familiarity reduces potential for danger, and eliminates fear of an unknown. Therefore, we've designed our food culture around foods that have a common shape, which shows our value for safety, but also an obsession with discarding or isolating things that are different, or aren't the norm.

This behavior is potentially harmful in that we are reducing agrobiodiversity, which is important for food security. As we develop monocultures--producing the same variety over and over--in order to obtain the conformity and consistency our American consumers are expecting, we are giving them a false sense of security with conformity of shape, whereas the real security and sustainability of food rests in the maintenance of multiplicity and variety of genetic resources.

An excellent reason to purchase carrots from the grocery store or farmer’s market that still have their green stems attached, and to avoid those pre-cut baby carrots, is that you can replant the stems to cultivate their seeds. You can also do this, of course, with carrots you plant in your own garden! The replanting of the carrot stems will not grow another carrot, however it will produce the seeds once the stem sprouts, which will allow you to make a new harvest. Plants are so smart!

When I was a little girl, my family used to plant carrots all over the backyard. It was like a scavenger hunt to find them and pull up the root to find that beautiful, orange stubby piece of nature.

Children picking carrots from a garden
I recommend if you have a front yard or backyard garden, to plant those carrots everywhere and allow the neighborhood kids to have a good time pulling them out for you. Even let them try eating one with dirt on it, right from the ground. It’s a learning experience that digs into memory with a sensory experience, and allows your children to really appreciate where their food comes from and to learn about how food grows.

They are the future, and their future happiness depends on how we teach them about food security. That lesson starts in the soil, not from a plastic bag.

Have you done any creative projects with your children to teach them about biodiversity and how food is grown? Please leave your comments below!


  1. This is a great idea for a blog! that's why I have nominated you for the Liebster Award :) please take a look here:

  2. Thank you for the nomination, Kailsmum!