Carrots make a delicious, nutritious, low calorie snack. They are also very popular in salads and are frequently found in fruit juices and health drinks. One of the main reasons carrots are so popular is due to their crunchy texture as well as their sweet, satisfying taste. However, for optimal texture, taste, and nutrition it is imperative that carrots be properly cooled and stored after harvest.
General Facts About Carrots
Carrots are closely related to traditional herbs such as parsley, dill, fennel, and cumin which are typically grown for their aromatic leaves and flavorful seeds. Like these other plants, carrots too were originally grown primarily for their leaves and seeds rather than their roots. Overtime carrots were cultivated to improve the taste, texture, and size of their roots, elongating them and giving them a less woody flavor. Nowadays of course carrots are almost exclusively grown and eaten for their roots; however, their leafy greens are still sometimes eaten as well.
Carrots are low in calories and starch and rich in vitamins such as β-carotene, α-carotene, and γ-carotene, which metabolize into vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for eye health. Carrots are also rich in antioxidants and minerals. They are believed to improve blood flow and aid in healthy digestion.
General Information About Cooling and Storing Carrots
Carrots may be stored, transported, and sold as either topped carrots, which have had the greens cut off of them, or as bunched carrots, which retain the greens intact. This distinction is important because bunched carrots have a shorter shelf life than topped carrots.
Temperature – Both topped and bunched carrots should be stored at a temperature of about 32°F. They should also be cooled as soon after harvest as possible and ideally should be harvested in cool soil. However, it is not recommended for the carrots’ temperature to drop below 0°F or freeze damage may occur.
Respiration and Degradation – The extra foliage on bunched carrots results in a dramatically higher rate of respiration and thus also accelerated degradation and loss of quality.
Relative Humidity – Carrots should be stored at a very high relative humidity, about 98% – 100%. This prevents them from losing moisture. If they lose moisture their texture and crunch will be compromised as well as their overall taste and nutritional value.
Handling – Carrots should be handled carefully to avoid bruising their shafts or damage to their tips. Damaged spots act as weak spots for decay and rapid degradation to set in.
Ethylene Exposure – Like many fruits and vegetables carrots will change in the presence of ethylene. For carrots ethylene exposure will result in a more bitter, less pleasant taste. For this reason carrots should be kept separate from other produce that release ethylene as they ripen.
Shelf Life – Topped carrots will last up to a very impressive 9 months under optimal conditions. By contrast bunched carrots will only last approximately 2 weeks under optimal conditions.
Methods of Cooling Carrots
Because it is important to cool carrots quickly and thoroughly and keep them at low temperatures, basic room cooling alone is seldom optimal. Instead the following methods are recommended:
Forced-Air Cooling – Forced-air cooling, which utilizes specially designed fans to pull cool past the carrots, results in much faster cooling times.
Hydrocooling – Hydrocooling involves submerging the carrots in near-freezing water and is very effective at rapidly cooling the carrots. Hydrocooling also helps prevent the carrots from becoming dehydrated.
Packing Ice – Packing ice directly on the carrots is another highly effective means of cooling the carrots. This approach will also help with rehydration if the carrots are somewhat dehydrated.
Semco is proud to offer a wide range of industrial cooling systems that are ideal for use to cool carrots. Our systems can be customized to fit the capacity and cooling method needed for each client’s operations. We will work closely with you to ensure that the system is optimal for your carrots or other produce.