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Shopping for Carrots

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2010

Do you prefer to buy carrots bagged or with their green tops attached?

Carrots sold with their feathery green leaves 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. As the bagged carrots waited in refrigerated storage for delivery, their sweetness increased.

You’ll typically pay more for carrots with their tops attached, about $1.79 per pound compared with $1.29 for bagged carrots. But we think it’s worth a little extra for better carrot flavor.

FRESH PICK

Carrots with their green tops attached boast rich, true carrot flavor.

IN THE BAG

Extended storage makes bagged carrots sweet, but they lack the intense carrot taste of the just-picked vegetable.