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Author Topic: Why do carrots taste nicer when the tops have been left on?  (Read 3965 times)

@SparklyG

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@SparklyG asked the Naked Scientists:
   
I would like to know why carrots taste so much nicer when the tops have been left on!

GinaB

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 28/11/2011 02:01:02 by _system »


 

Offline Devilmunkey

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I have never eaten carrots with the tops still on, so cannot verifiy whether they taste better to me personally. I would however suggest two possible reasons for the difference in taste:

1) Some on-going process within the main body of the carrot which is enabled by keeping the green top (e.g. photosynthesis involves creating new carbohydrates which may be used to construct sugars).

2) Perceived improvement in taste may be psychosomatic; much of our appreciation of food comes from visual cues and a greater variety of colour may stimulate the taste buds to find food more appealing (this could be evolutionary in nature as greater variety in foods consumed provides a greater variety of vitamins and nutrients).

The second point brings to mind a study I read some time ago regarding wine tasting, where tasters were unable to tell the difference between white and red wines when red colouring had been added to the white wine. Sadly I donít have the reference for this study, but it has interesting implications.
 

Offline Don_1

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Devilmunkey may well be right with both answers, but only up to a point with answer #1.

Once harvested, carrots have their tops removed to stop moisture being taken by the leaves from the root (the edible part of the vegetable). If not removed, the leaves continue to take moisture stored in the root resulting in limp carrots. So when you buy 'top on' carrots, they will be very fresh, probably harvested no more than 48hrs before being put on the shop shelves, whereas 'top removed' carrots may have been harvested considerably longer ago and stored in sand.

So I'm going to plump for the main reason being 'freshness'. With or without the top on, a fresh harvested carrot will probably taste better than one which has been in storage for some time.

Carrots can be stored for 2 - 3 months, providing they are stored at low temperatures and in darkness, and although they can actually increase their vitamin A content during the first few days of storage, there is bound to be a deterioration of the quality and taste as time goes by.

Just as an aside to your question, there still seems to be a difference of opinion as to whether carrot tops can be eaten. As a member of the Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae) family, they are related to celery, parsley, parsnip and dill (amongst others), but this family also includes the poisonous hemlock. Certainly the Carrot Museum (yes, there really is a carrot museum) thinks they can be eaten, although with some reservation. Take a look here.
 

Offline Devilmunkey

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Don 1: that is very interesting regarding the prevention of moisture uptake by removing the tops of the carrot. That is something I never knew. Coincidentally, my girlfirend was remarking only yesterday on how we never seem to see carrots Ďtop-intactí for sale where we live (we have some very mundane conversations), that would suggest to me that we do not have (m)any local carrot producers given what you have said.
 

Offline Donnah

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Ever had winter carrots?  We leave some of our carrots in the ground and cover them with straw in the fall.  Come winter we dig through the snow, lift the straw and get sweet, fresh winter carrots.  Parsnips are good too.  We are going to try some other root crops and see how they do.
 

Offline CZARCAR

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top left on & head of lettuce?
 

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