Ah, baby carrots. The quintessential diet food. The lunch box staple. The default vegetable whenever someone doesn’t want to put much effort into whipping up a proper dinner. Carrots also happen to have a questionable impact when it comes to improving eyesight. But, they’re tasty, healthy, and most of all, convenient. What more can you ask for from a veggie? Baby carrots have taken over our collective cuisine so much that they rarely receive any special attention. They aren’t exactly the most exotic of ingredients to be honest, and neither do they have any sort of special flavor that they can impart in a dish.
But what most people don’t know is that baby carrots have a very colorful and interesting history, especially for a culinary ingredient that was invented less than three decades ago. Let’s get started with a bit of an overview of what baby carrots are.
Are Baby Carrots Really Babies?
First, we have to make a distinction. There are “true” baby carrots and there are “baby-cut” carrots. The latter is what the public commonly encounter in supermarkets, where they are bagged and sold as “baby carrots”. These kind of carrots come from full-grown crops that have been cut and peeled into baby-sized shapes. In comparison, the former are “true” baby carrots in the sense that the crop from which the carrots came from are harvested prematurely, thus retarding their growth.
In this article, we will talk about the second kind of carrots (those that are cut into baby shapes). So, to answer the question- no, they’re not really babies. They are deliberately manufactured and marketed to look like they are. But this isn’t really a bad thing.
History of the Baby Carrot
Back in the 1980s, carrots were expected to look like…. carrots. That is, they should conform to people’s expectations of what carrots are supposed to look like and should be uniform in size, shape, and coloring. Carrots that have minor defects- crop grew the wrong size, a slight discoloration here, a bump there- were either discarded or used for animal feed.
Mike Yurosek, a carrot farmer from California, found this wastage unnecessary. These were all perfectly edible carrots, so why were people throwing them away? He then thought up a solution that involved cutting up the discarded carrots into baby-sized shapes.
Yurosek bought a green bean cutter that cut up the carrots into five-centimeter pieces, then he ran these pieces through an industrial potato peeler to further refine the shape.
In his next batch of vegetable deliveries to a local grocery chain called Vons, he included a bag of these newly-cut baby carrots. He didn’t expect the very enthusiastic response. The grocery chain wanted their next deliveries of carrots to be solely the baby-cut kind that Yurosek provided.
And thus, the baby carrot was born.
Baby Carrots Sell Better than Normal Carrots
Vons was only the first in the line of vegetable distributors, grocers, restaurateurs, and other carrot-obsessed buyers who were thoroughly impressed with these new “baby carrots.” Other farmers took notice of the high demand that these new food product is receiving, which resulted into them following in Yurosek’s footsteps and making baby carrots of their own. Just a year after Yurosek manufactured the first baby carrot, the carrot consumption grew by a whopping thirty percent.
There are several reasons why people instantly took a liking into the cute, bite-sized baby carrots. First of all, baby carrots are small enough to fit in your mouth comfortably. No need to cut or prep anything. Second, baby carrots are more convenient than their regular counterparts. Just chuck a few pieces into any dish and you have yourself a complete meal. Third, kids are more apt to eat baby carrots because of their shape and taste. There are chosen carrot varieties that are specifically grown to be “baby-fied” because of their inherent sweetness.
There has also been efforts in recent times to market these things as an alternative to junk food, like the 2010 “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food” campaign. This campaign was a huge success, resulting into a thirteen percent increase in carrot sales in the succeeding year.
A Few More Interesting Facts About Baby Carrots
- Mike Yurosek actually made two differently sized varieties of baby carrots. One batch is the regular two-inch baby carrots, while the other batch is made up of one-inch baby carrots. The second batch was called as “bunny balls” but these never really took off with the carrot-eating public.
- Yurosek discarded 400 tonnes of carrots a day before he came up with the baby carrot idea.
- A serving of baby carrots is eight pieces. This has 30 calories, two grams of fiber, and twice the amount of a person’s recommended dosage of vitamin A.
- Bags of baby carrots are wet because they have water in them to keep the carrots hydrated.