Carrots are one of the most popular root vegetables. They are delicious, easily accessible, and very versatile.
If you use carrots often, you have certainly come across carrots with green shoulders or ones with green circles or dots inside. Or maybe, you’ve even come across the rare fully green carrot.
So, can you eat green carrots? Green carrots are perfectly safe to eat. Carrots turn green as a result of exposure to sunlight when they are still in the soil. The parts that get exposed to the sun change their color from orange to bright green when the chlorophyll in carrots reacts with the sunlight.
This article explains the science behind green carrots. It also explains why green carrots are edible and green potatoes aren’t despite the fact that both vegetables undergo the same process.
You will also learn why cooked carrots turn green and if carrot greens are edible too. So read on, curious cooks!
Carrots: Everything You Should Know
Carrots are one of the healthiest root vegetables. They are crunchy and delicious both fresh and cooked. Carrots are the perfect vegetable for people trying to lose weight too, as they contain very few calories.
Here are the benefits of eating carrots:
- Carrots are rich in vitamins and minerals. These root vegetables contain a high amount of beta carotene. When you eat carrots, your body converts this compound into vitamin A which promotes eye health. Carrots are also a good source of vitamin K1 and B6, as well as biotin and potassium.
- Carrots are rich in antioxidants. The antioxidants in carrots help the body fight free radicals, thus lowering the risks of cancer. These substances are also good for heart health.
- Carrots improve your digestion. Carrots are high in fiber. Incorporating carrots into your diet will have a positive impact on your digestive health.
- Carrots are a boost for your immune system. As carrots also contain vitamin C, they improve your immune system and help your body fight infections.
Why Do Carrots Turn Green?
Carrots have a long shelf life. If you store carrots properly, these crunchy vegetables will last up to 4 weeks in the fridge.
But even with fresh carrots, either from the supermarket or right from your garden, green shoulders and green rings and dots inside the vegetable are a common phenomenon.
You have probably wondered if the carrots turn green before they are harvested or if it happens as a result of improper storage conditions.
It is common for carrot shoulders to turn green. Carrot shoulders, also referred to as carrot tops, are the part of the vegetable just below the green stalks. Carrots tops, on the other hand, are the green leafy part.
The greening of this vegetable has to do with the chlorophyll activating in the carrots as a result of contact with direct sunlight.
When the carrots are still in the soil, the sunlight doesn’t reach them. But as the carrots grow, their shoulders get ‘sunburned’, and turn green.
If you grow carrots yourself, you can actually use the green shoulders of carrots as a sign that it is time to harvest them.
Are Green Carrots Safe To Eat?
Yes, green carrots are perfectly safe for consumption. In fact, carrots with green shoulders are considered to be good quality carrots (though not superior quality). You can eat them without worrying about any health hazards.
With this said, if the green part of the carrots is bitter, cut it out and use the rest of the root vegetable instead.
If you use lots of carrots in cooking, you have certainly come across carrots that don’t have green shoulders but have green rings and dots inside.
These carrots are safe to eat too. It is just that the soil shifted and left those areas of carrots exposed to the sun.
Another peculiar case is when the carrots are green in the area of the carrot where the xylem (the center of the carrot) meets the phloem (the outside of the carrot).
Whatever is the reason for the carrot developing a green ring between its two parts, it is safe to eat.
Why Aren’t Green Potatoes Safe To Eat?
Many people know that they shouldn’t eat green potatoes. But as soon as they learn that green carrots are safe to eat, they start to think that the same goes for green potatoes.
While the science behind the processes of carrots and potatoes turning green is the same, the results are very different. As opposed to green carrots being safe for consumption, green potatoes are a serious issue and you should avoid eating them at all costs.
The color changes in the carrots and potatoes happen for the same reason. When these root vegetables are exposed to sunlight, they produce chlorophyll which makes them turn green.
The reason why green carrots are still edible and green potatoes aren’t is that carrot greens are safe for consumption, while potato leaves and tops are poisonous, as they belong to the Solanaceae family, or nightshades.
The toxic solanine in the leaves isn’t concerning unless the tubers (i.e. potatoes) are exposed to sunlight.
When this happens, chlorophyll gets activated. Along with the activation of chlorophyll, potatoes also start producing solanine, a toxic compound that is also in the potato leaves.
You may be able to get rid of the green parts of the potatoes by peeling them. While this does reduce the toxic solanine levels in this root vegetable, it doesn’t make it all healthy.
It is best to toss green potatoes and use healthy ones instead, especially if you are making a dish that calls for lots of potatoes and all potatoes you have at home are green.
So, the lesson to learn is that while you can get away with green carrots and carrot greens, potato greens and green potatoes are not something you should eat.
Why Do People Think That Green Carrots Are Poisonous?
Now that you know that eating carrots that have developed green shoulders is safe, you may still come across people who believe that green carrots are poisonous.
But this is a misconception that comes from the fact that the foliage of potatoes and tomatoes are poisonous. Additionally, you don’t see people cooking carrot greens often, which is another common reason to think that they are not edible.
Can You Eat Carrot Greens?
Carrot greens are not poisonous. They are safe to eat and can be cooked in many different ways. Carrot greens have a slightly bitter flavor and can bring earthy notes to your dishes.
You can use carrot greens the same way as fresh parsley or basil. They even work as a substitute for cilantro in salsa. Put them in soups and salads, sauté with olive oil, or make some out-of-the-box pesto sauce.
Whenever you buy carrots with greens, trim them around 2 inches from the carrot tops and wash thoroughly to get rid of the dirt accumulated in them.
Pat dry the carrots greens, wrap them in paper towels, put them in a plastic bag, and store them in the fridge.
As carrot greens last only a few days in the fridge, use them as soon as possible for the best flavor and texture.
Do Carrots Turn Green When Cooked?
If you enjoy muffins or cakes with shredded carrots, you may have noticed that sometimes the carrots turn green after baking. While some people think this is magic, there is a logical explanation behind this phenomenon.
Shredded carrots may turn green as a result of the baking soda in the recipe. Carrot pigments are sensitive to pH balance changes. And baking soda, being an alkaline substance, reacts with the carrot shreds and causes them to turn green.
This happens when you put too much baking soda into the batter. If shredded carrot turns green every time you bake carrot cake, try reducing the amount of baking soda you use by a quarter teaspoon.
Another reason for the carrots turning green in baked recipes is not mixing the baking soda well into the batter. Baking soda that is not dispersed well causes the shredded carrots to turn green in some areas of the cake.
Some people may find green carrots in their cakes and muffins off-putting. But the good thing is, they are completely safe to eat.
How To Store Green Carrots
So, you’ve bought or harvested lots of carrots and all of them have green shoulders. The best thing you can do is to store them unwashed in the fridge.
Remove the green leafy tops to prevent the carrots from dehydrating too early. Wrap the carrots in paper towels and place them in a plastic bag.
Make sure the carrots are not tightly wrapped in the plastic bag as condensation will cause them to rot.
But what to do if you have made the mistake of cutting off the green shoulders on all of your carrots?
In this case, you have to think of a way to preserve the carrots for future use. There are two things you can do. You can freeze the carrots or you can dehydrate them.
There are two ways to freeze carrots. The first method implies blanching the carrots before freezing them. The second method suggests freezing raw carrots and is suitable for people who don’t have a lot of time.
How to blanch and freeze carrots:
- First off, clean and trim the carrots. You may or may not peel them. If the skin on the carrots is damaged, it is best to peel them. But not peeling the carrots helps preserve the nutrients. So, the choice is yours.
- Slice the carrots or leave them whole. It is best to blanch and freeze the carrots whole if you know you will be roasting them. If you will be using the frozen carrots in soups and stews, slice them into coins with 0.5 inches of thickness.
- Put the carrots into boiling water. If you are blanching whole carrots, leave them in boiling water for around 5 minutes. For carrot rings, a few minutes in the hot water is enough.
- Once you take the carrots out of the boiling water, immediately transfer them into a bowl filled with ice water. This is done to stop the cooking process and prevent the carrots from overcooking.
- Next, drain the carrots.
- Place the carrots on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and transfer them into a freezer. This is called flash freezing – a great technique to prevent frozen foods from sticking to each other.
- Once the carrots are frozen, transfer them into heavy-duty zip-top bags or airtight plastic containers.
- Label the bags with the date and use the blanched frozen carrots within 12 months.
You can skip the blanching step and freeze the carrots raw as well. In this case, however, use them within 2 months.
How To Use Carrots
Carrots are a very versatile root vegetable. Whether you are eating vegan, keto, or paleo, carrots can be a healthy addition to your diet.
You can use carrots as a side dish, snack, or ingredient for the main dish. Crunchy carrots are great to eat raw. But you can also cook carrots in a number of ways.
The cooking methods for carrots include roasting, stir frying, braising, boiling, and steaming.
Carrots are an affordable vegetable that you can use in salads, stews, soups, casseroles, sauces, etc. Aside from their uses in savory dishes, carrots are also widely used in baking.
The most famous carrot dessert is the incredibly moist and easy carrot cake. You can also use shredded carrots to bake muffins, cookies, and cake loaves.
If you don’t have a lot of space in the freezer and have already cut out the green shoulders on the carrots, your best bet is to dehydrate them.
How to dehydrate carrots:
- Wash the carrots and cut out the blemishes. You may or may not peel the carrots.
- Slice them into 3 mm thick coins. You can also shred the carrots.
- Blanch the carrots by putting them into boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
- After a few minutes, remove the carrots from the boiling water and transfer them into a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking process.
- Drain the carrots and spread them on the dehydrator trays. Arrange the carrot coins away from each other to ensure even drying.
- Dehydrate carrot coins at 125°F for 8-12 hours or until brittle. Shredded carrots will take 6-10 hours to dehydrate.
- Once the carrots are dehydrated, let them cool and rest for 2 hours.
- Transfer the dehydrated carrots into airtight jars. Make sure the jars are dry. Otherwise, the carrots will quickly get moldy.
- Label the jars and use the carrots within 12 months.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, use the oven to dehydrate the carrots.
Dehydrated carrots last long only when there is no moisture left in them. To make sure that the carrots are fully dry, take a dehydrated carrot chip and snap it in half. If the chip breaks, then it is fully dry and will last very long in the pantry.
You can eat dehydrated carrots as a low-calorie snack or use them in soups, stews, and roasts for extra texture and flavor.
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