Rooting for freshness

I came across some interesting information about carrots and root vegetables in last month’s Cooks Illustrated (September & October 2010). No, no – don’t stop reading. This is cool, and useful, especially as we go into winter and begin using and storing more root vegetables. A reader asked if it was better to buy carrots bagged or with their greens attached. Here’s what the experts at Cooks Illustrated said:

Carrots sold with their feathery greens still attached are typically less than 3 weeks old, the point at which the greens begin to wilt after harvest. Bagged carrots, on the other hand, may sit in storage for up to six months before they reach the supermarket.

We sampled both types of carrots raw, steamed, and sautéed. In each case, tasters thought the green-top carrots had a ‘deeper carrot flavor,’ but the bagged carrots, though one-dimensional in flavor, were ‘undeniably sweeter.’ It seemed obvious why the fresh carrots tasted richer, but we wondered why the bagged carrots were sweeter. Our science editor enlightened us, explaining that certain root vegetables, including carrots and potatoes, sweeten over time when refrigerated because the cool environment encourages the conversion of starch to glucose.

Although you may still choose to buy bagged carrots (especially when we eventually can’t buy them locally this winter), it’s good to know local root vegetables will keep a long time refrigerated and continue to sweeten as well.

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