Can you eat carrots that have sprouted? (why carrots sprout)

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat carrots that have sprouted?” and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of eating carrots that have sprouted, what causes sprouting in carrots and how to store carrots to prevent sprouting.

Can you eat carrots that have sprouted?

Yes, you can eat carrots that have sprouted. They can be eaten raw or consumed in the same way as regular carrots are cooked or sauteed.

Although sprouting occurs after relatively long storage and is generally accompanied by negative characteristics of the vegetables, such as visible decay and shrivelling (2), sprouted carrots can be eaten (1). 

What are the benefits of eating sprouted carrots?

The benefits of eating sprouted carrots are the benefits of eating carrots. Carrots contain amino acids, starches, carbohydrates, organic acids, phenolic acids and vitamins (3, 4).

Although some chemical changes occur during the long storage of carrots, leading to moisture loss and changes in the proportion of reducing sugars to non-reducing sugars, carrots are a source of antioxidant compounds, such as phenolic acids, flavonols and carotenoids (1, 3, 4).

Carrots contain fibres, vitamin B, and minerals, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron (4).

According to studies, the concentration of vitamin C decreases significantly after 30 days of storage of the roots. The total phenolics increase after 24 weeks of storage and the total amino acids increase after 7 weeks of storage (3).

What are the drawbacks of eating sprouted carrots?

The drawbacks of eating sprouted carrots are the higher risks of consuming a spoiled vegetable, in addition to the negative effects of the long storage on the texture and nutritional properties of the carrots (1, 2).

Sprouting of carrots does not occur alone, but comes with other phenomena, such as loss of moisture and weight, loss of firmness and microbial spoilage (1, 2).

For instance, long storage leads not only to sprouting but to the shrivelling of the carrots. Long storage favours the growth of microorganisms that cause decay and the generation of off-flavours in carrots, such as increased bitterness (1, 2).

In addition, long storage leads to the loss of vitamin C (4).

What causes carrots to sprout?

The sprouting in carrots is caused by a plant hormone called zeatin, a cytokinin found in the leaves of the carrot plant during the development of the roots.

The hormone migrates to the roots and finds its higher concentration after 4 months of storage at 0 °C or 32 °F (5). Zeatin breaks down the dormancy state of carrots and as a consequence, the roots sprout.

The exact time that sprouting occurs depends on the storage conditions, such as humidity and temperature (2, 5).

How to store carrots to prevent sprouting?

To prevent carrots from sprouting, controlled storage conditions are necessary, regarding temperature and humidity (2, 5). The ideal conditions for storing carrots are at 32 °F (0 °C) at a relative humidity of 99 % (1).

Under these conditions, the carrots can be stored for 7 months with weight minimal losses, of only 10 to 15 % (1).

In refrigerator

The temperature of storage in the refrigerator is about 4 °C or 40 °F. Under these conditions, carrots can be stored for about 8 weeks. However, the humidity should be high to avoid weight loss and sprouting (2).

Cut and peeled carrots should be stored for 2 weeks in the refrigerator (1).

In the freezer

Carrots can be frozen to extend their shelf-life for up to a year. To freeze and store carrots, it is recommended to blanch them first (8). Blanching inactivates the enzymes that lead to negative changes in the composition and sensory properties of carrots during storage.

To blanch carrots, cut them into small pieces, after having washed and peeled the roots. Boil a large amount of water in a cooking pan and immerse the carrot cubes in the boiling water for 1 to 3 minutes.

Cool and pack the carrot pieces in plastic freezable bags or food containers and store the blanched carrots for 10 to 12 months (6).

Other FAQs about Carrots that you may be interested in.

How to grate carrots in a blender?

How long are carrots good for? 

When do carrots go bad?

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat carrots that have sprouted?” and discussed the benefits and drawbacks of eating carrots that have sprouted, what causes carrots to sprout and how to store carrots to prevent sprouting.

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References

1.-

Nunez J, Hartz T, Suslow T, McGiffen M, Natwick ET. Carrot production in California.

2.-

Van den Berg L, Lentz CP. High Humidity Storage of Vegetables and Fruits1. HortScience. 1978 Oct 1;13(5):565-9.

3.-

Phan CT, Hsu H, Sarkar SK. Physical and chemical changes occurring in the carrot root during storage. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 1973 Jul 1;53(3):635-41.

4.-

Yusuf E, Tkacz K, Turkiewicz IP, Wojdyło A, Nowicka P. Analysis of chemical compounds’ content in different varieties of carrots, including qualification and quantification of sugars, organic acids, minerals, and bioactive compounds by UPLC. European Food Research and Technology. 2021 Dec;247:3053-62.

5.-

Halloran N, Kasim MU, Kasim R. Relationship between Dormancy and Zeatin Level during Pre-and Postharvest Storage Period of Carrots (Daucus carota L.). European Journal of Horticultural Science. 2004 May 1;69(2):53-8.

6.-

Freezing vegetables – 9.330 [Internet]. Extension. Colorado State University Extension; 2015 [cited 2023 Sep 26]. Available from: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/freezing-vegetables-9-330/