You heard me. Those tiny orange tapers perfect for snacking have not just been yanked out of the ground at 1-2 inches, peeled, and sealed in baggies. They are actually made of older, larger carrots that have been processed, peeled, and disinfected to look like denuded pint-size versions of themselves. But you knew that already, right? Baby carrots are a myth. They have a certain theology: vegetables look cuter and more kid-friendly, excess produce gets discreetly used up.
They even have an origin story, courtesy of USA Today in 2004, which tracked down Mike Yurosek, a carrot farmer who invented the baby carrot in the late 1980s. But in your heart of hearts, you know, you want those carrots to be real “babies.” You don’t want to think about those older carrots with the ashy dried-out skin, the kind the Mythographer’s neighborhood grocery store wraps up with over-the-hill onions and celery and sells as “stock produce”, the vegetative equivalent of being put out to pasture.
So you go along believing. The origin story gets buried, only popping up in obscure trivia stories. You comfort yourself with the knowledge that there are real miniature carrots. But the carrots you get fed on airplanes are “manufactured”, “baby-cut,” or, my favorite “classic cut and peeled.” They really should be called “cocktail carrots” and be served alongside cocktail onions, cocktail weiners, and those mini pickles. But as is so often true with myths, they only get debunked with trauma. When in 2006 one tiny bag of Grimmway baby carrots in a California grocery store tested positive for salmonella, and the rest of the carrots with that sell-by date were recalled, the ball got rolling. Baby carrots, because they’re peeled, have more unprotected surface area susceptible to bacteria.
And for this reason baby carrots, like all cut vegetables, they have to be somehow disinfected, generally with chlorine. This common unsavory practice, combined with the submerged knowledge of baby carrots true provenance, gave rise to the vicious urban myth submitted to Snopes.com in March 2008. Baby carrots are made from deformed elderly carrots! And they’re drenched in chlorine! As Snopes knows, that’s only partially true. Or rather, it is true, but it’s no reason to panic.
Still, it makes the Mythographer a little sad to think of processed carrots. Of course, we process everything, and the Mythographer has been accused of an unhealthy obsession with authenticity, but she thinks you should know what you’re eating. And the myth of baby carrots, maybe since they’ve been around for almost thirty years now, or maybe because we’ve entered the era of the locovore, is starting to dry out, chlorine or no.
What do you think? Did you know baby carrots were a myth? Do you care? Leave a comment and let the Mythographer know!